Four-year-old Grant Brown holds up a peace sign with two of his fingers as he poses with the winners of the first-ever RunDown 5K & Fun Run. The young to not-so-young, kids to grandmothers, experienced runners to walkers who were challenged to tread the 3.1-mile course, laced up their shoes Saturday morning (April 25) at DeKalb West School for this fundraising event for Down syndrome awareness.
Grant, who was born with Down syndrome was the friendly 2015 “Face of the Race.” He is the third child of Stephen and Amanda Brown, who are the parents to Grant’s two siblings, Austin, a student at D.C.H.S., and Lydia, an 8thgrader at DeKalb West School.
“In the beginning, it’s devastating,” Grant’s mom said of his early newborn days. “You want everything to be perfect. Really, now, looking at him, he is perfect.”
Children born with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21. Normally, people are born with 46 chromosomes. An individual with Down’s has 47.
“That extra chromosome is okay,” Brown said. “We wouldn’t change him for a minute.”
Admittedly, raising a child with a genetic disorder took a period of adjustment, but overall, she says it has been a positive experience.
“Fortunately, we’ve not had a lot of the health issues that can come with Down’s,” she said. “He’s very stubborn, but he’s very loving too.”
“We were told a lot that they’re (D.S. children) a little more laid back and maybe not as active,” Brown said. “That’s certainly not the case here. He’s a lot of fun and very energetic.”
Grant’s DWS Pre-Kindergarten teacher Amy Pack-Young echoes his mother’s take on the little boy’s spunk.
“He is stubborn and energetic, but most of all very comical!” she said. “He loves to play in the IPad center, pretend play and dance. His favorite teacher is Holly (Bain, Educational Assistant). She has been awesome to work one-on-one with Grant within the classroom. I'm really his second favorite because I'm as stubborn as him,” Young adds with a laugh.
Grant’s genetic disorder certainly has no bearing on his acceptance at school or anywhere in the community.
“All the preschoolers have overall been great with Grant,” his teacher says. “They have taken him on as younger brother. Everyone at DWS knows Grant. He greets everyone with a hug, big smile and sometimes a kiss,” Young said.
“He’s like a rock star almost,” his mom says laughing. “He’s a celebrity. It’s the same way at church and wherever we go. It’s pretty funny.”
Down syndrome’s affect is different for each child, says Alecia Talbott, Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee, who was on hand race day to provide additional information about D.S.
“Typically, there will be some cognitive delays and some difficulty with working memory,” explained Talbott, whose third of three children was born with D.S. “Generally, for most kids, they’re going to do everything that their typically developing peers are going to do. They’re going to run and play, jump, ride bikes, and do other things. They’re going to learn a little bit differently, and it might take a little bit longer. They may need some additional support to see those things happen.”
Grant and his family are blessed with an abundance of support from other people including their church home at Salem Baptist Church and many members of the community.
“We’ve always had a lot of people behind us,” Brown said. “That’s why our shirts say G-force. We have such a force behind us. Seeing the community come out like this has been amazing.”
"The faculty and staff at DeKalb West School have played such a huge role in Grant's life this past year,” Brown adds. “From his teachers to the students, everyone treats him so well. All the faculty/staff have made him and us feel so special, and their love for him is evident. We want to thank each of you for everything you do for Grant."
“When you’re raising a child with special needs, you need support,” Talbott adds. “There are hard days. There are challenges. Seeing the support of the community like this makes parents like us feel good. There’s stressful days, and it’s very helpful to have other folks reach out and say we love you too.”
221 people registered for the race with 162 people participating in either the 5K or fun run, according to Clark Oakley, who helped organized the event with Andy West from Smith County who also has a child with D.S., Kelly Pyburn, Amanda Brown, and Joey Agee.
Over $6,000 was raised for Down syndrome awareness. This event would not have come about if not for the founder, Addison Oakley, an 8th grade student at DeKalb West. Oakley, who has a cousin with D.S. and is also best friends with Grant’s sister, Lydia has wanted to do something for several years now for Down syndrome awareness. With the help of her mother, Lisa and father, Clark they created RunDown 5K, a non-profit organization. This will become an annual event to help provide resources for children with DS in DeKalb and Smith County.
“We want to thank everyone who supported this race in any way,” Oakley said. “We couldn’t have done it without the volunteers who gave of their time and the sponsors who supported our cause financially.”
For more information on Down syndrome, check out www.somethingextra.org.