Volume XVII, Issue 40 # October 1 - October 8, 2009

Miles to Go

Runners and walkers take steps to raise money to treat Down Syndrome

Wayne Malone, Jim Ohair, Sgt. Greg Prioleau, Joe Ryan, Capt. Alton and Joe Ensor.

by Diana Beechener

A Sunday morning drizzle didn’t dampen the spirits of the 800 people gathered in the BWI Airport Midfield Cargo Complex. Most of the regulars at the annual BWI Run/Walk for Down Syndrome were used to clouds.

“It’s the seventh year it’s done that,” said Wayne Malone, a founder of the run. “It rained until about 20 minutes before the starter’s pistol went off, then became a beautiful day. Perfect for running. It was another miracle year.”

The event, which supported the Kennedy Krieger Down Syndrome clinic over 23 years, attracts families who want to run, walk and find answers.

“When my son was born in 1980, there weren’t clinics like Kennedy Krieger,” Malone says. “There weren’t libraries with modern books. The doctor told us that there was no hope, just to leave [our son] Jaron home.”

Malone wasn’t content to lock his son away. He and his wife became makeshift researchers, finding the answers that doctors couldn’t provide. Now the run helps other parents in his predicament.

Malone and Westinghouse executive Joe Ryan just happened to be running enthusiasts.

“Joe was interested in bringing the community together for a running event,” Malone says.

They decided their race would benefit the programs at Kennedy Krieger’s Down Syndrome Clinic, where director George Capone offers hundreds of families hope.

“We’ve raised $455,000 for the Institute,” Malone said, before adding an additional $30,000 this year.

The BWI Run/Walk draws 1,400 enthusiasts, but only 300 to 400 run the four miles or walk two. The others celebrate a family day with karaoke, raffles, snacks, music and talks with parent support groups and medical experts.

“It’s amazing how many new parents come,” Malone says. “They want to hook up with the parents’ support groups that come here, and they want to meet Dr. Capone.”

Regulars return, adding depth of experience. Every year families return to support the clinic, even if the clinic can no longer help them.

“One thing that hit home with me: a family that came with a three-week-old Down Syndrome girl,” Malone recalls. “The baby was on oxygen. She died in January of that year, about 1990. Since then they bring their entire neighborhood. A whole block comes to support them.”

Families returning means the event has fostered community and hope that didn’t exist when Malone’s son was born.

“The families have grown up,” says Malone. At 29, his own son Jaron helps announce prize winners every year. “The kids are now bringing their families. That kind of ages me a bit.”

Help fund Kennedy Krieger Institute’s work: www.kennedykrieger.org.