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Siloam family to take ‘d-tour ’ : Intrepid Thompsons exercise pedal power

By Jeff Della Rosa Staff Writer jeffd@nwanews.com 5/8/7
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A Siloam Springs family of eight children and two adults plans to ride 1, 300 miles on bicycles to increase awareness of Down syndrome and raise money for Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas.

The Thompson family is calling the 16-day journey a “ d-tour, ” and it will take all of them from Fayetteville to the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville, Fla.

Kathy Thompson, president of Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas, and her husband, Toby, want to raise awareness for the group that supports families who have someone with Down syndrome.

Their 11-year-old son, Jon, was born with the genetic condition, and they want to show that he is not so different from anyone else.

“ This is something he can do, ” Kathy Thompson said. “ We’re just really wanting to give people hope. ”

The family is expected to leave at 8 a. m. May 12 from the parking lot of the Walton Arts Center for the journey that is to be completed on Memorial Day.

Kathy and her oldest daughter will drive the support vehicles, and Toby, who ran in the Boston Marathon last year, will ride the entire trip on a bicycle.

“ I have some idea of what pain is like, ” he said about running in the marathon. He has been training hard since the start of this year, and has virtually ridden from the Pacific Ocean to here.

“ It’s not a race, ” he said. “ It will be fun to do with the kids. ”

The children, ranging from age 7 to 20, will ride their bicycles during parts of the trip, as much as they can handle. Each will have his or her own jersey.

“ They’re very excited about it, ” Kathy Thompson said. “ They just really have a heart for people with Down syndrome. ”

Toby Thompson said he will cover an average of 80 miles a day. The family will keep to mostly two-lane state highways and not major highways or interstates, Kathy Thompson said. From Fayetteville, they will go south on scenic Arkansas Highway 71 to Fort Smith. The family will make its way through Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Louisiana, Mississippi and eastward.

“ We’re hoping this might be something that is done every year, ” she said.

The family has been contacting chambers of commerce and Down syndrome groups that will be met along the trip, to see if anyone would want to ride with them.

They are looking for corporate sponsors and donations for the trek to the ocean, but they’ve already acquired most of the necessities.

The Thompsons still need another bicycle rack, so all eight bicycles can be hauled for the trip home. Sport drinks and energy bars also will be needed for the journey.

For housing, the family is trying to find hotels that will donate rooms or family and friends in whose homes they can stay.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas, 18626 King Road, Siloam Springs, AR 72761. Specify that it’s for the d-tour. Also, donations are accepted on the Internet at www. d-tour. net or on the Down Syndrome Connection Web site, www. dscnwa. org. Click on the d-tour link.

Down Syndrome Connection meets at 7 p. m. on the third Tuesday of each month at John Powell Senior Center, 610 E. Grove Ave., in Springdale. The group has no membership fees.

Meetings offer guidance and resources on the condition. Guest speakers have come to talk about estate planning, education and occupational therapy.

A child who has Down syndrome is commonly born with an extra chromosome. This form of the condition that affects chromosome 21 is called Trisomy 21, according to National Down Syndrome Society.

The condition affects the mental and physical health of the afflicted, according to NDSS. Certain physical traits include: low muscle tone, a single deep crease across the palm of the hand, a slightly flattened facial profile and an upward slant to the eyes.

More information is available by calling 549-1084.

By Jeff Della Rosa Staff Writer jeffd@nwanews.com