In my 21 years with the Down Syndrome Clinic at Kennedy Krieger, I’ve been privileged to meet many children with Down syndrome and watch them grow up to lead fulfilling and independent lives. I feel lucky to be a part of such an inspiring community of families.
When I was first appointed as director of the Down Syndrome Clinic, I was a little surprised when I was told quite frankly that I must attend the clinic’s annual event at the airport, a race organized by Wayne Malone, whose son has Down syndrome. Such a mandate seemed curious to me, but when Pat Winders—a former employee who was one of our clinic’s biggest advocates in the early days–tells you to be somewhere for the clinic, you show up. I didn’t know all of the details then, but what I was about to take part in for the next 21 years continues to inspire me in my work today. I would like to take a moment to share with you the story of Wayne Malone, a man who singlehandedly formed a community of people and resources for those affected by Down syndrome.
On August 20, 1980, the Malone family welcomed a son with Down syndrome. Immediately, Wayne (the boy’s dad) sprang into action and sought out any information about their son’s needs. Unfortunately, in 1980 there were no networks in place for families like the Malone’s, and they were limited to outdated materials from their local library.
Immediately recognizing the need for more information and networks, Wayne sought out other families who had children with Down syndrome and began the first step towards establishing counseling support groups in Baltimore and Howard counties. Realizing there was still a great need for awareness, Wayne approached his employer, Northrop Grumman, about an event to raise funds and awareness of the area’s leading Down syndrome resource, Kennedy Krieger Institute. From this, and with lots of hard work, the BWI Airport Run & Family Walk was created.
Now in its 25th year, this event attracts more than 1,400 participants on the last Sunday in September and is the kick-off to National Down Syndrome month in October, recognized in Maryland by a proclamation from the governor.
Wayne always had the energy of five people. He was a one-man-show and took care of all of the details. It’s easy to think that the support groups, clinics and networks were always available, but Wayne knows that this wasn’t always the case. He was an integral part of building a community of people with Down syndrome that will continue to grow and be treasured by many families.
Over the past 25 years, Wayne, Northrop Grumman and dedicated volunteers have raised more than $500,000 for local parent groups and Kennedy Krieger. This money has been used to continue the growth of our clinic and fund research that otherwise would not have been possible. For 25 years, Wayne has been an advocate for our Program. I have very fond memories of running and walking in this event with my children during the past 21 years. I invite you all to come out and support this wonderful community of families.
I would like to dedicate this post to Wayne and his family and thank him for all of his hard work. It is not often that you have someone to champion your mission for so long, and with so much dedication, and we could not be more honored to have Wayne as part of the Kennedy Krieger family.
Please join us for this year’s 25th Anniversary – BWI 4-Mile Run/ 2-Mile Walk on Sunday, Sept. 25. For more information and to register, please visit the BWI Run/Walk website.