Emily Anderson had run seven marathons before the 2017 Boston Marathon. This year’s race will mark her eighth. On June 3, 2016, though, Emily laced up her shoes to run even farther on one of her life’s greatest journeys – parenthood. She was already a mother to Charlie, 3, when her daughter, Andie, received a diagnosis of Down syndrome at birth. At first, Emily, and her husband, Bryan, of Shrewsbury, Mass., were scared of the unknown – not knowing their daughter’s future, not knowing how Andie would fare the surgery she needed at just four days old, not knowing about the bright and beautiful lives that people with Down syndrome can lead.
Joining the Andersons on those first wary steps in Andie’s journey was Brian Skotko, MD, MPP, co-director of the Down Syndrome Program at Mass General for Children (MGfC) and Massachusetts General Hospital. For Emily, the care Skotko and his team provide for Andie has been crucial to her success. Emily wanted to give back by running this year’s Boston Marathon for the Down Syndrome Program.
“Dr. Skotko and his team have been there for my family since the day Andie was born. What they do for families like mine is truly a blessing,” said Emily. “I knew I couldn’t just stand by and not do something to help support the program.”
At 9 months old, Andie has already embodied the spirit of the marathon with her big smile and infectious personality. “It’s just marvelous that, at not even 1 year of age, Andie has already captured the love and support of her entire community,” said Skotko. “Her journey is one to celebrate and we’re only getting started.”
In addition to being a champion for her daughter, Emily is an advocate for all people who have Down syndrome, said Skotko. “We are honored that Emily chose us to be the recipients of her efforts. Training for a marathon is hard work,” he said. “The marathon is really Emily’s victory lap for Andie and for those who have Down syndrome. The race is a celebration of the journey, which has only just begun. At the Down Syndrome Program, we are all joining Andie on this journey through her life.”
On race day, Emily will think of Andie and all she’s taught her family about love and compassion. “Since Andie was born, I’ve learned that a Down syndrome diagnosis is not a bad thing. Andie has been such a blessing for our family,” she said. “She’s taught us the importance of truly appreciating each and every day. She has already touched so many hearts and I believe she will continue doing so for the rest of her life.”