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Not all stories published in The Commercial are placed on our Web site.
The following story and a photo appeared on page 1B to today's edition.

Larry Fugate

By Jeannie Nugent

As athlete Toby Thompson cycled from his family’s home in Siloam Springs
toward Fort Smith last Saturday, he looked over at small wildflowers
growing freely on the side of the road.
“Then there was a forest then a mountain behind that,” he said. “The
beauty of it just struck me. Those are individual, small flowers. They’re
not as big as that mountain, but they’re still beautiful.”
It’s that message of recognizing the intrinsic value in the world despite
perceived shortcomings that propelled Thompson to begin the journey that
brought he, his wife Kathy and their eight children into White Hall on
Tuesday morning. The family is biking to Jacksonville, Fla., in an effort
to bring national awareness to the genetic-disorder known as Down syndrome.

The condition manifests itself in the form of developmental disabilities
and marked differences in body structure and facial appearance.
It was something the Thompsons knew nothing about until the day after
their seventh child — Jonathon David — was born in December 1995.
“He was born at night and everything seemed fine,” Kathy said. “Then the
next morning the doctor came in and said ‘I need to talk to you.’ We had
no clue. It was emotionally claustrophobic, overwhelming. We went through
so many different emotions: Fear, grief. We wondered what to do next.”
The Thompsons coined the biking campaign “D-Tour” in reference to that
moment in their lives.

“It was a detour in our lives when Jon was born,” Kathy said. “We thought
we’d have a baby just like our last six then all of the sudden there was
this big sign pointing in the other direction. It ended up being a
beautiful route that we would’ve missed. There was a love and acceptance
that came. As Jon grew, we discovered how special he was. It’s a
wonderful, great joy. He’s a really great kid. We don’t think of him in
any way as ‘disabled.’ He’s just one of the gang.”

As president of the Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas, Kathy
said she receives a lot of calls from parents who were just told that
their child had the chromosomal disorder.
“We just want to give hope and help to these people. We’ve been there. We
know what to expect and we know how beautiful it can be,” she said.
Toby’s defenses go up when he recites the statistic that 90 percent of
people who find out they are having a Down’s syndrome child opt for
abortion over birth.

“What does that say about our culture? What do we put our values on? We’re
such a performance-based society,” he said. “People are valuable and it’s
not just based on their looks or their mental ability. There is an
intrinsic value in every person.”
Research brings new possibilities each day to Down syndrome children, Toby
said. Jon is now learning to read.
“It’s not a hopeless thing,” he said. “All we want sometimes is our
comfort, but a lot of times what happens is we go through some harder
times. It builds character, uncovers what you truly believe and shows you
who you really are. Jon is a special kid. He requires additional help, but
he gives in different areas that others can’t give.”

For more information about the Thompson family journey and daily updates,
visit their Web site at www.d-tour.net.

By Jeannie Nugent