Wayne Malone is no longer running the distances he managed in his youth, but he is still racking up miles organizing an annual fundraiser that benefits the Down Syndrome Clinic at Kennedy Krieger in East Baltimore.
He will work behind the scenes Sunday at the annual BWI Airport Run and Family Walk, as he has for the last 25 years. The 2011 run marks a financial milestone of more than $500,000 raised for the clinic and for the more than 500 patients who visit it annually, most of them children and teens.
"I am all over the map, starting at 4 a.m.," Malone said of the event he founded in 1986. "I will be running all over the place — just not on the course."
The 64-year-old Ellicott City resident and manager for Northrop Grumman said he naturally gravitated to running when he needed to raise money for a cause that was personal.
The second of his three sons was born in 1980 with Down syndrome. At the time, Malone recalled, a doctor said to take the infant home and keep him there because he would not amount to much.
He and his wife, Cynthia. did not follow the advice. Instead, they schooled themselves in the challenges they would face raising a child with a developmental disability, and they worked to alter the public perception of a genetic disorder that affects about 250,000 American families.
They started a support group for parents that still meets today and have remained compassionate advocates, making certain that families have the latest information and easiest access to services.
"We found dozens of parents like us with newborn Down syndrome kids and not much available in the way of support or information back then," he said. "That has changed."
Jaron Malone, 31, has thrived. He attended public schools in Howard County and graduated from Oakland Mills High. He is employed at The Arc of Howard County and will participate Sunday in the run his father founded to help families affected by Down syndrome.
"The funds from this event have been instrumental in allowing us to expand our research studies, our programs and the services we offer to families," said Dr. George T. Capone, director of Kennedy Krieger's Down Syndrome Clinic, who expects to be among the race participants.
"I go every year," he said. "I am all about walking and talking about what we can do for our patients and their families."
The dollars raised help extend care to new patients and their parents, pay for research studies and enable Capone to organize seminars to share medical advances that allow those with Down syndrome to live longer and fuller lives, Malone said.
"Dr. Capone knows how to stretch the dollars we raise for the clinic," he said. "The money also helps families in the city who might be without the means to pay for a therapist. We want to make sure all those kids get help."
The first BWI Airport Run and Family Walk drew 190 participants. Sunday's event is expected to register about 1,500 participants, among them dozens of middle school and high school students running in honor of classmates with Down syndrome. There will be a few prizes. One goes to the runner who has traveled the farthest. George Beck, who is now 91, usually takes the statuette for the oldest participant, but it is anyone's guess who will take home the trophy for the youngest.
Participants will race along a 4-mile course or amble along a shorter stretch circling the Midfield Cargo Complex at the airport. The relatively flat course, approved by the USA Track and Field association, will be lined with mile markers and water stations. As always, it is scheduled for the last Sunday of September so it can kick off October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
"[The clinic at] Kennedy Krieger was just a vision when we started this event," Malone said. "Now the clinic is a reality. We have a clinic that brings Down syndrome to light and is spreading the word that there is help and support."
Malone doubts anyone today would offer the prognosis he heard 31 years ago. Many children, like Jaron, have matured into productive adults. That is due, in no small measure, to activists like the Malones, said Capone.
"Today there is better care available, and standards continue to evolve and improve," Capone said. "There is a vision of hope for healthy, happy and well-adjusted lives."
Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. Sunday at the Cargo Building G Warehouse, Midfield Cargo Complex. The race begins at 8:50 a.m. Information: 410-993-7866.