I completed my first triathlon in 2010, but this story actually begins three years before that, with the birth of my first son, Nash.
The day started just like what you see in the movies. Andrea woke me up at two AM, with those famous words, “I think it’s time!” We rushed to the hospital, and before I knew it, there he was, my son! I had visions of what life with him would be like—All Star Little League games, teaching him to drive, sending him off to college….And then the doctor put his arm around me and, in a quiet voice, told me my son had Down syndrome. I was filled with so many emotions that day, but mostly fear and uncertainty. I wasn’t sure what the future held. I wasn’t sure what all of this meant, and I worried for my son.
Fast forward just a few years, and my son has made me a better man and a better dad. He brings out the best in our family. Nash is also the reason we got involved in the Down syndrome community and an issue bigger and more important than any of us.
We learned that in many countries around the world, special needs children are routinely placed in orphanages immediately after birth. They typically stay in these orphanages for four to five years. Then, most are transferred to an adult mental institution where they will stay for the rest of their lives. It’s not uncommon for a child to die within months of being transferred, because of the harsh circumstances they find themselves in.
When we learned about these abandoned, institutionalized children, we felt a tremendous need to help. We began researching what could be done for these children and learned that there are many families here in the US ready and willing to adopt a child with special needs–the only thing standing in their way is the financial burden of adopting internationally, which can cost $30,000 to $40,000, sometimes more.
Of course, we decided to begin fundraising.
As we contemplated different ideas to raise awareness and drive donations for an adoption grant, Andrea looked at me and said, “you’ve always wanted to do an Ironman, why not do an Ironman to raise awareness and funding for a child?” When she said this, I laughed out loud.
As you might recall, an Ironman race is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run, all of which must be completed within 17 hours. Andrea was right, I had always wanted to do an Ironman, right up until the day I tried my first half-Ironman and almost did myself in. I knew then I just didn’t have it in me to do a race twice as demanding. Completing a full Ironman wasn’t in the cards.
Or was it?
I knew that I couldn’t do it for myself, but what if doing an Ironman meant that one of these children could have a real family? That I knew I could do. It was in that moment that I learned what it means to allow myself to get caught up in a cause that was bigger than me. It was in that moment that I took a step towards witnessing a miracle.
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