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Family's 'd-tour' shares Down syndrome beauty

Posted Oct 17 2008 6:19pm


Be sure to check out their website link for newsclips and lots of pictures. D-tour.net

The Florida Times-Union
May 29, 2007

Family's 'd-tour' shares Down syndrome beauty

By KONRAD MARSHALL,
The Times-Union


Eleven years ago, Jonathon Thompson was born the seventh of eight children to a family in Arkansas.

One day after Jonathon's birth, a doctor broke the news to Toby and Kathy Thompson - their newborn baby had Down syndrome.

Forty-six: That's how many chromosomes a normal human cell contains. Forty-seven is how many chromosomes Jonathon's cells contain.

One extra chromosome - the Thompsons were told - was enough to produce a raft of disabling physical and mental characteristics in Jonathon, like lower muscle tone, a flatter face, upward slanting eyes, smaller ears and reduced mental ability.

Nine lives were changed that day, but according to the Thompsons, they were changed for the better. That's what they wanted to share on a bike ride known as the "d-tour" - Cycling Across America for Down Syndrome.

Six months ago, the Thompsons started planning the d-tour - a ride from Arkansas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It's named in honor of Jonathon, the biggest and best detour in their life.

Two thousand miles worth of training later, and they were ready. Seventeen days is how long they figured it would take, and they were right on the mark. Eight a.m. on May 12 is when they started, and 2 p.m. Monday is when they finished.

Thirteen hundred miles is how far the Thompsons had come when they rolled into Friendship Park on Memorial Day, completing the final leg of their journey, tired but happy.

Two-lane highways are the roadways they traveled, avoiding interstates at all costs. The Thompsons wanted to meet people along the way, and they wanted the road to twist and turn a little, like life.

Eighty miles per day was the goal Toby Thompson set. For him, the d-tour was supposed to be hard, or least uncomfortable, to remind him of the way he felt when informed of Jonathon's condition all those years ago.

Forty-five miles per hour is about the top speed Thompson reached, but it was enough to connect with roughly two bugs per mile.

Two gallons of water was needed for him every day, roughly a quart of fluid every 10 miles. The trip was supposed to take work, exercise, diligence and sweat. He wanted to work through that and take something from it, like he worked through his feelings when he found out about Jonathon.

Seven to 20 was the age range of the other kids on the trip, so they rode for only a while each day - as many miles each day as their little legs would carry them. They enjoyed time spent stopping in the small towns and meeting people more than time spent on their bikes. Dozens of pictures were taken, of mountains and flowers and smiling faces - Jonathon's among them - and the beauty of the d-tour came into focus.

Two support vehicles helped them get through the journey; eight companies sponsored the trip, and countless people helped out all the way throughout, at general stores, chambers of commerce, churches and homes.

Four television news reports were made, and more than 20 newspaper articles were printed about it, too, all of which helped in their mission - to publicize the fact a child born with Down syndrome can be a blessing, as unexpected and off-course as it may seem.

One lap of the Friendship Fountain was all they needed to finish the journey. And as two dozen sets of hands clapped in recognition of that fact, it was clear that the d-tour was all over, bar the countless hugs and innumerable smiles brought on by one message, sent by one family, inspired by one boy.

konrad.marshall@jacksonville.com,

(904) 359-4287

For a list of cities they toured, and pictures, go to http://www.d-tour.net.

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