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Family travels cross country on bicycles for Down syndrome

KFSM 5 News

Siloam Springs
Mallory Hardin Reports

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SILOAM SPRINGS - A local family is going cross country to raise money and awareness for Down syndrome.  But they won't be flying or driving for this trip: they'll be traveling by bicycle.

The Thompson family of Siloam Springs is leaving Saturday from the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville and they'll spend the next few weeks riding 1,300 miles on bicycle to Florida.  It's all to raise money for an organization they created called Down Syndrome Connection, the purpose of which is to educate and connect parents of children with Down syndrome.

The Thompsons say they're passionate about the cause because it hits close to home.  Eleven years ago, they had their seventh child, a boy they named John. But just a day after his birth, the doctor came in with startling news. John had Down syndrome.

"We all of a sudden hit a detour where our lives went in a different direction," said Kathy Thompson, founder of Down Syndrome Connection.

The Thompsons were upset, confused, and didn't know what to expect.  But now they say it's a detour that made their life better than they ever imagined.

"It ended up really being great," Kathy Thompson said.

"In John's case, when people come around he gives people what they are really looking for and that's a little bit of love," said John's father, Toby Thompson.

That's the message the Thompson's are setting out to share.

"We just want to raise hope and awareness of Down syndrome. We want to show people that people with Down syndrome are more like you than different from you. They can do a lot of things anyone else can do," Kathy Thompson said.

And the way they plan to spread that message and raise money for Down syndrome?  A cross-country trek they'll call D-Tour.  The Thompsons will ride 1,300 miles on bicycles, from Fayetteville to Florida.

"It will be an adventure," Kathy Thompson said.

An adventure that includes the whole family: Eight children and two parents.

"It will be a learning experience, and a growing experience," one of the Thompson children said.

John says he can't wait. Wearing yellow matching D-Tour jerseys, the children ranging from age 7-20 will ride as long as they can, while Kathy and her oldest daughter will drive by their side for support.

"It's an opportunity to spend time with my family doing something that will hopefully bring hope for other people," Toby Thompson said.

The Thompson family leaves Saturday at 8 a.m. from the Walton Arts Center. They are still looking for sponsors and places to stay.  If you would like to donate to the D-Tour cause, you can log on their website at www.d-tour.net