It might surprise you to know that there has never been a race or walk dedicated to Down syndrome in the nation's capital until the first Race4Respect™ in 2014, just two years ago (2014). In Washington D.C., people lace up and log miles in support of all kinds of interests. Perhaps an event like R4R has taken time to appear because its purpose is different. Most runs for a cause raise awareness and money in hopes of finding a cure, or to eradicate something. So what’s different? R4R isn’t seeking to cure or eradicate any part of the people it seeks to support.
This may sound shocking, but as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I fear the day there is a so-called "cure for Down syndrome”. I love my daughter, just as she is. I would not change her— ever— but I would certainly do something for her, or give her something to improve her life. Ultimately, I would give her a better world.
The Race4Respect™ is an event that was created with this in mind. The one thing that we want to give all of our children is opportunity. For the past three years of R4R, the opportunity provided on Pennsylvania Avenue has been the experience of an event with someone with Down syndrome. By giving that opportunity to those without Down syndrome, we are in fact giving opportunity to all individuals with Down syndrome.
They say it takes seven (7) seconds to make a strong first impression. Now, let's say you happen to see me at the mall and you meet my daughter in passing. If it takes her longer than the seven seconds to respond to you (which it will), it is very likely that you will assume she doesn't understand. You would be wrong—her slow reaction time is due to cognitive delay typical of people with Down syndrome— but how would you know? You couldn't. Unless you’d had some experience interacting with a person with Down syndrome.
The opportunity to experience the Race4Respect™ allows the idea of possibility and ability to take hold: the possibility for what someone with Down syndrome is able to do. Just watching the interactions between people with Down syndrome and their families, classmates and teammates, and with friends who have and who do not have Down syndrome, is what captures the interest and enriches the understanding of those who attend R4R.
I have been told by countless people, our event manager included, that the positive energy at the R4R is like two events combined. I have no doubt that those who participate in the Race4Respect™ leave with a little something extra. They will be more inclined to give someone with a disability a chance. A chance to respond, a chance to be able, and a chance to shine.