Life tends to have two sides to it: what is planned on and what actually happens. Two years ago, when Mike and Sarah McTighe were preparing for the birth of their second child, they thought they knew what to expect. They attended doctor’s appointments, went to baby showers, and even purchased a doll for their 3-year-old daughter, Rylee, to practice holding her soon-to-be baby brother. But on April 22, 2010, after little Ryken was born, Sarah knew immediately that something was different.
“We had no idea what to do or where to go from here,” Mike said. It wasn’t even until the day after Ryken’s birth that they were officially told he had Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is a condition in which a child is born with 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. This causes their brain and body to develop differently, often more slowly than the average child. The mental effects range from mild to severe, affecting a child’s attention span, impulse behavior, judgment and learning capabilities.
Physically, this condition causes irregularities in the growth and health of vital organs such as their heart, eyes, intestines, and again, the brain. With struggles like this, it’s no wonder those with this syndrome, and those who support them, need the help of the community around them.
And support is just what the SDSA provides. Just 1 day after Ryken was born, members of the SDSA arrived at the hospital with a basket of supplies for Mike, Sarah and their new bundle of joy. Among their gifts: 4 books on Down syndrome, a t-shirt for Ryken, pamphlets on New Parent meetings in the Valley, some encouraging poems, a journal with Ryken’s name on the front, a bumper sticker that said, “My kid has more chromosomes than your kid,” and a couple of rubber bracelets.
Mike still wears his bracelet every single day. Only now, the originally blue band that reads, “Celebrating Down Syndrome,” has turned yellow from so much wear.
The SDSA was founded in 1991, after the son of the SDSA’s founder, Gina Johnson, was diagnosed with Down syndrome. From then on, Gina’s mission was to build a community that works to educate and support the family members of those born with Down syndrome.
After Ryken was born, Mike and Sarah quickly joined this growing community. Through attending the SDSA’s New Parent groups, they found comfort in the similar stories of other families with a Down syndrome child. From these support groups came lasting friendships, and soon the official meetings resulted in regular play dates for their children.
“It’s like a whole new branch of relationships we’ve built into our life,” said Mike.
It’s the support that the McTighe’s received from these relationships that Mike and Sarah now continue to establish for others. The couple now serves as mentors to new parents on behalf of the SDSA to share their story and offer their support and encouragement. Additionally, Mike shared his story with those of us here at Earnhardt Dodge in order to encourage our participation in the upcoming Glow Run. Well after seeing a picture of Ryken, now almost 2 years old, who could resist?
That is why Earnhardt Dodge is joining the efforts of the SDSA to inform its employees and customers of how we can all support families with a Down syndrome child. Many have already signed up to participate, so don’t miss your chance!
The Glow Run will be held on Saturday, April 28 at 6:30pm at the Encanterra Country Club in Queen Creek. Individuals or groups of people will gather to walk/run along the 18-hole golf course, guided by hundreds of luminaries to light up the path. All runners must register online by April 25th at Active.com. For those of us who aren’t much for running, there will be a booth-style festival with give-aways, games and prizes. Parking for the event is free.
We hope you can join us in the SDSA’s celebration of Down syndrome.
Raceplace Events Glow Run
Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 6:30pm
Encanterra Country Club
36460 N Encanterra Dr
Queen Creek, AZ 85140
10K, 5K, and 1 mile Run/Walk