Dad Finishes New York Marathon Carrying Baby Son With Down Syndrome

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A photo of a dad carrying his tiny baby boy across the finish line at the New York Marathon has gone viral for all the right reasons.  

The photo which was taken by Elizabeth Griffin, who was watching the runners finish the gruelling 26-mile run, captured Robby Ketchell carrying his sleeping 7-month-old son Wyatt as he finished the race.

Moved by the photo Elizabeth took to the Internet to find out who this loving dad was and discovering his heartbreaking story in the process.

You see the Daily Mail reports that Robby, who’s a veteran marathon runner, was running for Wyatt who was born with Down syndrome.

Robby’s wife Marya’s explained on her Instagram account:

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

The doting dad had hoped to complete the race in three hours and 21 minutes, with the goal of raising $3,210 for LuMind Research, a charity that works to improve the lives of those diagnosed with the genetic disorder.

The repetition of the numbers 3, 2 and 1 isn’t a coincidence. It’s a symbolic reference to the thing that causes Down syndrome, specifically a third copy of the 21st chromosome which occurs in all of those born with the disorder.

Robby wanted his goals to represent Wyatt’s three copies of his 21st chromosome.

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We had our first experience with the R word today and I am so proud of @robbyketchell, who handed it with grace. We knew we’d be in for a lifetime of educating and advocating but honestly, today took our breath away. I am so sad that I wasn’t there to hug my family (I was training to be a First Call mom for the @themdsc so I can be a resource for new and expectant parents of babies who have Down syndrome). Here’s Robby’s story: “Today was suppose to be special. It was Wyatt’s first bike race. For those of you who don’t know, Marya and I met while working for a pro cycling team. So bringing him to see a bike race for the first time was a big deal. One word changed that. While walking by the pro team tents, I overheard someone ask why Wyatt is wearing a helmet. And I heard the other person’s response: “because he’s retarded.” That last word stopped me in my place. They knew I heard them but didn’t expect me to. I turned their way and walked toward them. And explained: “that word is extremely offensive. My son has a genetic variation. Which means he may have a moderate to severe intellectual disability. But he IS NOT that word.” I left the scene thinking I didn’t do enough. That I should have been throwing punches. That I didn’t fight enough for Wyatt or for the Ds community. I’ve struggled a lot with the subtle things people say. Just the little things that always annoy me like, “he’ll be fine” or “he’s just a kid” or “a lot of people have issues with their babies.” Those bother me because they have no clue what our struggles and challenges are. And they will never understand. But I’ve learned that my role as Wyatt’s father is to help educate others. Explain so they might understand why these comments bother us. And maybe it will help someone else because they will speak to others differently. So I didn’t throw any punches today. But I wanted to. And I hope that I taught someone something as well. And that they will NEVER use that word again.” #DownSyndrome #Cycling #Cyclocross #YouShouldKnowBetter #DontUseTheRWord #theluckyfew #downsyndromeawareness #spreadthewordtoendtheword #tour_de_wyatt #proudwifey #mamabear #specialneedsmom

A post shared by Marya Ketchell (@tour_de_wyatt) on

Unfortunately, Robby reportedly hit a wall around the 20-mile mark but he still managed a bigger achievement. 400 meters before the finish line he met with Marya and was handed, Wyatt.

Father and son then crossed the finish line together.

Robby told Runner’s World:

To me, it was almost better than breaking 3:21. I had pushed my limits, which was the point. I couldn’t go any farther. And we got to share the moment of going across the finish line together.

I’m not really a crier, but tears were definitely starting to come. People around us were crying—even people who didn’t know the story, who just saw me carrying my son across the line.

Usually when you run a marathon, you put your name on your bib so everyone will cheer for you. I had put Wyatt’s name on mine so people were screaming for Wyatt the whole time. That made things emotional from mile 1.

Robby was shocked how quickly the photo of him and Wyatt went viral, adding that having a son with Down syndrome has changed him and his wife in the best way and given them a different perspective on life.

He said that the amount of love and connection while on this journey his family has been through is just incredible.

Amazingly Robby crushed his $3,210 goal eventually raising more than $11,000 for LuMind Research.

If you have a story to tell, contact UNILAD via [email protected]


Tom Percival

Tom Percival

More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism. Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV. He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.