Kids & Family

Down Syndrome Advocates Take On 250+ Mile Run

They'll make the journey from NYC to D.C. in just three days. You'll be surprised at the changes they're pushing for.

Trisomy 21 is a condition where a person is born with a 3rd copy of chromosome 21. You're probably familiar with its more common name: Down syndrome. That's why World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) should be easy to remember: March 21st - 3/21 (3 copies, chromosome 21).

To mark WDSD on 3/21, a team of about 21 runners will run relay-style from the United Nations Building in New York to the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Their run takes place over the course of 3 days, ending on World Down Syndrome Day. It's called the Run for 3.21 (and you, dear reader, now know the full significance of that name).

I caught up (literally - and I'm not in great shape) with one of the runners, Gina Mannion, who is an athlete ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). We talked about the importance of Run for 3.21 and why it has a personal significance to her:

"The Run for 3.21 Team represents an amazing cross section of advocates, athletes and allies from the entire community," NDSS Senior Advisor of Inclusive Health & Wellness Programs Michelle Ray said.

"Today, people with Down syndrome are living longer, healthier, fulfilling lives, and our Run for 3.21 and companion program, Racing for 3.21 on World Down Syndrome Day aim to celebrate their accomplishments and help foster a world of greater possibilities for all those with Down syndrome."

Maeve Mannion on the Jumbotron in Times Square NYCGina Mannion

For Gina, this is an even more personal campaign because her oldest daughter, Maeve, has Down syndrome. She and the NDSS are hoping to spotlight laws that hinder people like Maeve from living richer lives - a campaign that the NDSS refers to as "Law Syndrome."

Law Syndrome refers to the challenges people with Down syndrome confront when they want to follow their dreams: get a job, live on their own, get married -- in general, live independent, productive lives. Believe it or not, this effort to be independent can jeopardize the critical government supports people with Down syndrome rely on, like health care coverage. "Outdated laws discourage all people with Down syndrome from fulfilling their potential," says the NDSS on their website.

Gina and daughter Maeve running together in a 1 mile raceGina Mannion

Gina is hoping that through the Run for 3.21, more people will be aware of these outdated laws and that Maeve and countless others will be afforded the same rights as anyone else, such as the right to get married. "There are individuals with Down syndrome that are very high-functioning, have jobs, live on their own, have relationships and then are told 'no, you can't get married,'" says Gina. "Law Syndrome is trying to make people aware that these laws exist."

"The biggest thing is being accepting."

How can you start something good?

The athlete ambassadors for Run for 3.21 can use your help raising funds to help advocate for people with Down Syndrome.

Click here to support Gina Mannion's run. You can contribute through a donation or sponsorship here or you can donate directly to the National Down Syndrome Society here.

Let's #StartSomethingGood

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