Thursday, July 2, 2015

Does Running for a Cause Make a Difference?

In May I had the pleasure of participating in the second annual Race for Respect, a 5k run for Down Syndrome advocacy right here in the heart of old D.C. The race was pretty near perfect, from the weather to the scenery to the amazing people who ran on Henry's team. And I'm glad I ran. But I'm going to be honest, there were many days whilst trudging my flabby, winter body up hills when I wondered, "Why the heck am I doing this?"

Charity runs are awesome. But you have to ask, do they make any real difference? Obviously, evidenced by the fact that I did drag the aforementioned body through training, I believe
they do. In more ways then one...

Financial - Now I realize in most cases, after overhead, very little of the entrance fee will go toward helping people with Down Syndrome. But some will. And I believe wholeheartedly in the amazing work of the organizations who host Race for Respect and am always happy for the chance to support their work. In addition to providing community support, information and resources for people with Down Syndrome and their families, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (our local group), DSNMC, CDSPG, DSAGR, DSANV, DSASM, PODS of PGC and DSC grant scholarships to people with Down Syndrome and student going into professions that benefit people with disabilities, help families with medical expenses, advocates for legislation that will improve the quality of life for individuals with Down Syndrome and other disabilities (such as the ABLE act, laws prohibiting abortion based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome and laws creating nondiscrimination in access to anatomical gifts and organ transplantation) and much more. At the race I was encouraged when I was introduced to a father of a sweet three year old boy. He shared of attending a Buddy Walk (hosted throughout the region by the above groups and across the country by many others!) when his wife was 20 weeks pregnant with their son and they had just received a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. He said seeing the families of children with Down Syndrome made him realize they were just normal families and reassured him that he, too, could do this. That is awesome and totally worth it.

Making a Statement - You can chose to look when you see the employee at the grocery store/child on the playground/young person at school with Down Syndrome. But you can't ignore 600 people running down Pennsylvania Avenue. When you run for a cause you make a statement to which people must listen. Before Addison was born I did not know anyone with Down Syndrome (now I realize how sad that was!) and I think there are many people outside the Down Syndrome community who can say the same. Events such as Race for Respect and Buddy Walks are a wonderful chance for the general community to get to know people with Down Syndrome and their families! Guys, once you can put a face on the diagnosis it makes the citizen casting their ballot/mother considering aborting their child with Down Syndrome/person mocking people with disabilities rethink their actions. We need to show the world what their missing!

Better You, Better World - Running is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. So is being Addison's sister. Running is hard. Being Addison sister is even harder. But it is worth it. And if I'm going to be the sister he needs I need to be physically, mentally and emotionally strong to care and advocate for him. In order to reach my greatest running potential a few months out of the year I need to kick running ass. In order to reach his greatest potential, every day Addison must choose to kick ass. To, despite the physical and mental challenges, wake up every morning and fight for every ounce of food...fight for every milestone...fight for every movement. I'll never be able to understand what he goes through on any given day...but I can through demanding more of my body identify with his struggle and be prepared to help him be his best.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever participated in a charity run/walk? Why or why not do you think they make a difference? Comment below.

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