BOISE — Broken hearted and teary-eyed, Brady and Andrea Murray spent hours scrolling through the pictures of children who'd been abandoned simply because they were born with an extra chromosome.
"I was just captivated by it," said Brady Murray of Reece's Rainbow, a non-profit website dedicated to helping raise money for the adoption of children with Down syndrome. "(Those who give them up) don't know what they're missing out on."
The Murrays understand the fear and sadness that grabs hold of parents when they learn their child has Down syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that causes delays in physical and intellectual development.
But they also understand, in a way that is sometimes difficult to explain, how it is an invaluable blessing.
Brady Murray was as proud as a father could be when doctors placed Nash in his arms four years ago.
"I was really excited to have a son, my first born son," said the Boise man. "I was taking pictures, living it up and then one of the doctors put his arm around me and told me they believed Nash had Down syndrome."
Andrea and Brady Murray, who met while attending Utah State, had no idea what that diagnosis would mean to their son.
"It was a bit scary, it really was," said Murray, who is now the father of three children. "But within a matter of a day or so, it felt very right. I'm more proud of him than I ever could have been. I'm very proud I have the opportunity to raise a son with Down syndrome."
Murray rattles off the ways in which Nash has made his life richer, more meaningful. And then he talks about how stumbling on the Reece's Rainbow website last year gave him the motivation he needed to take on the most significant physical — and mental — challenge of his life on Saturday, May 5.
After completing a half Ironman two years ago, Murray started entertaining the idea of completing a full Ironman, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a full marathon (26.2 miles). He started discussing the possibility with his friends while he contemplated whether or not he had the time and resources to commit to an Ironman.
"We didn't want to race on Sunday so that limited some of our options," said the former baseball player, who took up triathlons to get into shape. After some research, they decided their only two real options were St. George or Florida.
While Florida was flat and at a lower elevation, it would also be expensive to travel to, while the St. George Ironman posed different challenges.
"It was literally the hardest course," said Murray with a slight laugh. In fact, the difficulty of the course is part of the reason organizers will change the race to a half Ironman next year.
It was around that same time that Murray saw the website and began struggling with finding a way to help those children reach the potential he knew they possessed.
"As I was trying to think of ways that we could help them, I thought, 'I could do this race for these kids, to raise money'," he said. "It wasn't a matter of whether I could or would do it, I would do an Ironman and it was because of these kids. That's when I signed up and I haven't looked back since."
Murray started his own effort — Racing for Orphans with Down syndrome (www.rodsracing.org). The website includes Murray's blog about his training, racing and life with Nash, as well as ways to help the orphans featured on www.reecesrainbow.org find the homes they deserve. Several friends have joined his racing group and his effort to raise money for the orphans.
"I want to help these children find homes, but I also want people to know Down syndrome is not bad," he said. "It creates different challenges that are out of the norm, but Andrea and I would never trade our experiences. It's a huge blessing. It is a difficult thing to understand, but to us, now it makes perfect sense why someone would want a child with Down syndrome."
He said that even if he could, he would not correct Nash's genetic disorder.
"He has talents and abilities that others don't have," Murray said. "He's going to do and be things, and accomplish things in his life that he would never have been able to do otherwise."
Murray recounts a story that illustrates why Nash is meant to be the boy he is.
The family was recently in Disneyland, and as they were leaving, they happened upon a man who "you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley," said Murray. Nash broke free from his parents, ran over to the man and gave him a hug.
The man was stunned.
"But he did about the only thing you could do and that was hug Nash back," he said. "That's the type of thing that Nash has that we don't, and it's a very special thing. He has things he needs to do and having Down syndrome is going to help him touch people's lives that he never would have otherwise."
Murray hopes facing his own fears, his own limits will help him bring attention to some children who deserve the kind of love and support that Nash has. He isn't worried about whether or not he can complete the tough course because he feels he has a secret weapon in those tiny, beautiful faces.
"I will crawl to the end if I have to."
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