By Kayce Patton
After the birth of their twin sons, Tendra and Kevin Duff’s lives changed forever, as many parents’ lives do.
But before Trenin and Kaiden were born April 21, they were both diagnosed with Down Syndrome, a one-in-two million occurrence. At birth, Trenin weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces, and Kaiden weighed 2 pounds. Both have stayed at the state’s largest neonatal intensvie care unit at St.Vincent Women’s Hospital. Kaiden was discharged on Aug. 8, and Trenin, as of press time, was still in the hospital’s NICU because of stridor, which is noisy breathing caused by obstructed airflow through a narrow airway.
The diagnosis inspired the Carmel family to get involved in an annual event, Dash for Down Syndrome, Sept. 10 at Forest Park in Noblesville. The event is conducted by GiGi’s Playhouse, a nationwide network of achievement centers for those with Down Syndrome and their families.
“(When diagnosed,) my initial thought was, ‘Oh well, no big deal. It will just mean a few more challenges and struggles, but we have the strength and support to be able to do it,’” Tendra said. “My husband did not take the news as well. He had a range of emotions. He felt sorry for himself and wondered why it happened, as he was a good man who always tried to live a good, Christian life. It wasn’t until I took him out to GiGi’s Playhouse and he saw all of the wonderful, fun-loving kids and was able to connect with the parents of those kids, that he finally realized how lucky we were.”
Now, the Duffs said they’re determined to help make the Dash for Down Syndrome event bigger and better than before.
“Upon hearing about the race, we immediately knew it was something we wanted to be involved in,” Tendra said. “GiGi’s Playhouse has been a blessing for our family for the support and education they have given us. We got involved and created a team for the dash.”
The family’s team is Team Duff.
At last year’s inaugural race, there were more 375 participants and spectators. This year, Executive Director Denisse Jensen said about 500 participants and spectators are expected.
The Kids Dash will kick off the event at 4 p.m. Sept. 10. Immediately following is the 3.21-mile run and one-mile Inspirational Walk.
“The event is truly a celebration of our courageous individuals making every step count,” Jensen said. “The 3.21-mile Fun Run, which represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome, is an opportunity for everyone to see what individuals with Down Syndrome are capable of and participate alongside them to accomplish goals.”
Anyone is welcome to participate in the dash, run or walk for $35 per adult and $15 per child under the age of 12.
“It has been a very busy (four) months, but we couldn’t ask to be in a better place with better nurses or doctors. They have all been more than wonderful to both the boys and all of us. We have met a lot of other wonderful families in the (neonatal intensive care unit), of who will be lifelong friends,” Tendra said. “We encourage the community to become involved and find their inspiration. We are blessed for this wonderful experience and know that God has bigger and better plans in our future.”
Support Team Duff by visiting gigisplayhouse.donorpages.com/Race2016IND/page1/ or following their blog at therealteamduff.com.
DASH FOR DOWN SYNDROME
When: 2 p.m. Sept. 10.
Where: Forest Park, 701 Cicero Rd., Noblesville. The main event will be held near the north entrance of the park at the Forest Park Lodge.
Cost: $35/adults, $15/children under 12.
Registration: gigisplayhouse.org/Indianapolis/3-21-race. Open registration begins at 2 p.m. the day of the race. Events begin at 4 p.m.
WHAT IS GIGI’S PLAYHOUSE?
GiGi’s Playhouse is a one-of-a-kind achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community. It offers more than 30 therapeutic and educational programs that advance literacy, math and motor skills and more.
These are at no cost to the families, as a result of fundraising events, such as Dash for Down Syndrome.
“We hope to be able to help in making it possible for GiGi’s to offer more classes and to serve families with kids of all ages by having funds readily available,” Tendra Duff said. “The Dash for Down (Syndrome), we feel, is a great way to be able to contribute and help make this possible.”