Friday, October 5, 2012

140.6 Miles for MAELIE

Coming down the final stretch to the day I will race the 2012 MyList Ironman World Championship in Kona, I want to introduce you to the little girl that has been the source of much inspiration as I've prepared for this day.  She is also the little girl I will be racing for in hopes of raising funding for her adoption and ultimately finding her forever family.

Meet Maelie!  Maelie is a little girl who lives in an orphanage in a small community in South America.  Please allow me to share our story.
Maelie is 4 years old.  The harsh circumstances she faced upon being born made it so she would be placed in an orphanage at just a few weeks old.  She has lived in that same orphanage ever since.
In June of this year I visited Maelie's country while doing work with The Huntsman School of Business.  I had a desire to seek out any orphanages that may be in the area we were staying in hopes of finding any children who had Down syndrome so that I may be a voice of hope for them to someday be adopted.  After some research and multiple phone calls I was able to find an orphanage in a very small community outside of the city.  I made arrangements to visit them.

The day of my visit finally arrived.  The ride out took about 30 minutes by taxi.  I enjoyed the scenery as I eagerly observed each of the details in the foreign place.  What may have seemed like a normal everyday scene to some was fascinating to me.

As we pulled into town I started asking directions to the orphanage.  After a short walk down the dusty dirt streets we knocked on the big metal doors.  A very small door opened up and I saw a nun peeking through the window.  I felt a little like the misfits from the Wizard of Oz knocking on the door to the Emerald City.  After a moment, the metal door opened where we took a seat in a lobby area.

The nun who I had spoken to was aware that I had a son with Down syndrome from our phone conversation and that I was hoping to meet any of their children who also had Down syndrome.  After a few moments Senora Maria stepped into the lobby area holding a wide eyed little princess.  My heart skipped a beat.  I had a hard time at first, holding back the tears as I looked into this little girls eyes.  She looked at me with much curiosity.  Then came something I will never forget, that smile.

Senora Maria visited with me about Maelie and how all the children adored her.  She was among the favorites in an orphanage of 32 children.  I asked her about what happens to their children as they get older.  "They get adopted" she replied.  She then went on to explain that she did have concern for Maelie however.  Most children are adopted before they are 4 years old.  The orphanage is designated as a 5 and under orphanage.  They have never had a child stay there much longer than that.  Senora Maria told me that because of Maelie's disability, she feared she would never be adopted and wasn't sure what would take place as she got older.  She mentioned that she may be transferred to the city possibly but she just wasn't sure.  In that moment I felt a weight of responsibility be placed on my shoulders.  I knew that I needed to find this little girl a family.

After a few minutes Senora Maria asked if I'd like to hold Maelie.  Of course I would.  Maelie smiled that big grin as she looked at me and touched my face.  She was such a beautiful little girl.  We sat down and I wanted to see if she could stand so I put her towards the floor.  Not only did she stand but she took off running with Senora Maria right behind her!  It was hilarious!  She explained to me that Maelie is a very active little girl full of life and energy.  She would be such a blessing to a family I thought to myself.

My visit was short, but the impact this little girl had on me was tremendous.  As I look towards race day on October 13th I am filled with anticipation.  Completing a full Ironman is something that few ever get to do, especially in Kona.  It is the most difficult single day endurance race on the face of the planet.  I don't think there is any way to fully prepare for what the day will bring or what rigors my mind and body will face.  With that being said, there is nothing that I am not willing to face on race day for Maelie if it means that she and the thousands of other Orphans with Down Syndrome are given a chance at life and a family to call their own.  My hope is that somehow her story will be heard.  That we can raise enough funding to offset the incredibly high costs of international adoption and most importantly, that through these efforts, her family will find her.

In closing I want to say a few words about those who have Down syndrome.  What is perceived as a disability is remarkably a wonderful blessing.  When I was told that my newborn son had Down syndrome I was scared to say the least.  However, what I didn't realize at the time is Nash would be the source of pure joy, insight and inspiration in my life.  Nash has talents and abilities to accomplish things that I can only hope to do as do all who have Down syndrome.

I recognize that a family will be the biggest blessing an orphan with Down syndrome could ever ask for.  I also know that the biggest blessing that will come will not be for the orphan, but to the family who adopts this child.
The time has come my friends to take on the ultimate test, the Ironman World Championship in Kona for ORPHANS with DOWN SYNDROME!

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