Spectators gasp as father carries 7-month-old son with Down Syndrome across marathon finish line
Scientist Robby Ketchell was snapped carrying his 7-month-old son across the finish line at the New York marathon to raise funds for research
The New York City Marathon, which happens to be the largest and one of the most prestigious marathons in the world, attracts well over 50,000 participants every year from varied backgrounds. This year, it would be scientist Robby Ketchell who would become the talk of the race for an incredibly moving and heartwarming gesture.
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Some moments rattle your brain to the point that you forget how to do what you’ve been trained to do. While waiting for my extraordinary friend David to cross the finish line of the #NYCMarathon, this beautiful sight happened right in front of me and I was admittedly too stunned (and nearly ugly-crying) to ask for their names. This fella, who I now know is Robby Ketchell (thanks some super-sleuthing by my kindergarten pal, @polly_goes) carried his sleeping baby, Wyatt (@tour_de_wyatt) across the finish line. I posted this photo to Instagram and Twitter looking for the pair, with no idea of the unbelievably inspiring story I would find in locating them. Please read it via the link in my profile and/or go to The Ketchell’s @CrowdRise page (link below). ****THANK YOU @runnersworldmag for the piece, Polly for finding this family, The Ketchells and Wyatt for being who you are, and David (@djevotovsky) for being the absolutely heroic person he is and the reason I was there...the reason I got to witness this beautiful sight (and the even more wonderful sight of you, sir, running). I’m crying for a whole lot of reasons. ❤️ to donate, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/lumind-research-down-syndrome-foundation-nyc-2018/robbyketchell
According to the Daily Mail, Ketchell was photographed crossing the finishing line beside Central Park whilst cradling a young, sleeping baby in his arms by spectator Elizabeth Griffin. Griffin, who had been waiting for a friend at the time, was so taken by the scene that she immediately snapped a picture and took to social media in a bid to track Ketchell down.
"I'm not sure too many folks noticed because the baby was so fast asleep, but I've never seen anything like it," Griffin, a photographer at The Dr. Oz Show, told News 4 New York. "He kissed his head and kept running," she added, later writing, "It crushed me and my two friends who saw it. Was so moving!" and that she was "dying to find this guy."
"Folks, if you could help me find this father carrying his baby across the finish line of the @nycmarathon I’d be most grateful. Thanks!!" she posted on Twitter, and soon, the story of why Ketchell had run across the finish line with the child began to emerge.
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Dad post! I left nothing out there. Was on pace for 7:30 min/mile average for 20 miles. Could have backed off and gone for a 3:40, but that’s not what we came for. I went until the lights went out. Then I finished it off and walked in with my best friend. Thank you to all the fam and friends and our tribe for your support. #ThisIsForMyBestFriend #Tour_de_Wyatt #WarriorsFinishStrong #theluckyfew #themighty #thisisdownsyndrome #downsyndromeawareness #upsyndrome #running #runningmotivation #runningwithpurpose #homieswithextrachromies #lumind #theluckyfew
Ketchell, a longtime marathoner, was running for the sake of his son, Wyatt, who was born with Down Syndrome. The scientist had connected with LuMind Research, a foundation that supports Down Syndrome cognition research, with a goal of raising $3,210 and hoped to cross the finish line within 3:21 hours in honor of his son's three copies of the 21st chromosome.
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Wyatt runs 5 marathons a day. His feeding therapists (he has 3, plus he is in an aerodigestive clinic) say that eating is so hard for him, and requires so much effort, that finishing a bottle is like running 26.2 miles. We spent 2 hours at feeding therapy today and his team will be at our house first thing tomorrow morning to help problem solve. Eating. It’s something we take for granted every single day, every single meal. The struggle is something we know people find hard to understand, but the short explanation is that the combination of Wyatt’s low tone and his anatomy make eating the hardest thing he does all day. And yet, he continues to fight and we continue to fight for him (always will) 💪💙💛 #marathonfinisher #downsyndromeawareness #downsyndrome #homieswithextrachromies #theluckyfew #tour_de_wyatt #upsyndrome
Ketchell's wife, Marya, described the difficulties she had her husband had faced in raising Wyatt, telling News 4 that their son had been born premature and "has been through more in his seven months than most people go through in a lifetime."
She also took to her Instagram page to detail how Wyatt "runs 5 marathons a day" because "eating is so hard for him, and requires so much effort, that finishing a bottle is like running 26.2 miles." She said that the toddler was due an open heart surgery in April and that he's the "best, bravest person we know."
While Ketchell couldn't cross the finish line in the designated time, he ended up smashing the fundraising target and raised over $11,000. He also got to experience the intimate moment of finishing the race with his son after his wife met him 400 meters before the end and handed over Wyatt.
Talking to Runners World, Ketchell said, "When I was walking with him toward the finish line, everyone was still cheering his name. I told everyone, 'This is Wyatt,' and that made it so special." He also said having a son with Down Syndrome "changed us in the best way and [has] given us a different perspective on life."