Back in February, Team Lily ran their first marathon in Birmingham, Alabama, at the Mercedes Marathon. There is one moment about that marathon that to this day, I have not forgotten. It had nothing to do with the race course, my fellow runners or the post race food…it was the National Anthem. As we were lined up ready to start the race, I missed the introduction of the beautiful soul whose vocals I was about to hear. Once I heard her voice, I knew. My eyes watered…blood filled my face as I looked at the American flag, prouder than ever. As she finished, spectators and runners alike joined in applause. You might be asking, “what do you know?”, well…once I heard her beautiful voice, I knew that like my Lilybean…she had Down syndrome, but the great thing was that didn’t matter. She absolutely ROCKED that anthem and hearing her instantly made me look at my Lilybean and smile.
There is no better way that we could have begun our first marathon. Months after, though, I was reminiscing about that experience and thought I would do a google search to see if I could find video of the anthem from the race. Not only did I find a video, but I discovered an inspirational story that would end up being a little too long for a Facebook post or a Tweet.
Upon my researching, I came across the name, Ashley DeRamus. I then came across a website link: www.ashleybydesign.com. Much to my surprise, Ashley had her own website and clothing line! Upon further discovery, I saw a link to a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AshleybyDesignFashions) where I got to see not only some of Ashley’s latest fashion designs, but also some photos of her with Jason Crabb at the Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. Which got me thinking, “Why was she at the Gospel Music Association Awards and, forgive me, but, who is Jason Crabb?” And, well, watch the video below for answers to both questions, I promise it is well worth the 2-3 minutes!
Ok, so now that you have misty eyes and have made use of that kleenex, Hopefully I was not alone in that…ha Hopefully you will agree that those 2-3 minutes were well worth it! This woman not only sings national anthems at some big time events, but she is a highly decorated Special Olympic athlete, has her own clothing line, has her own Foundation that raises awareness, starred in a music video, and has done all of this despite having Down syndrome! Now, as the father of a child with Down syndrome, I am not at all shocked Ashley’s accomplishments. I am proud of her parents and of her for not letting a simple disability, an unexpected diagnosis, alter or shape her future. Her parents let her reach for the stars.
I get so excited reading stories like these because it teaches me about expectations and how to be a dad to Lily. Now, Lily may never have her own clothing line, or win a medal at the Special Olympics or sing the National Anthem at a major event, but she doesn’t have to. Just like any other parent, as she gets older, I want to be there for her with Kristin and help her achieve any and all of her dreams and aspirations. There is nothing that is out of her reach. It may take her longer to get there than others, but that just means we get to enjoy the journey that others may take for granted.
To Ashley: You are an inspiration. Not because you have Down syndrome, but because you choose to live life to its fullest without letting anyone hold you back. I will end this with one of Ashley’s quotes: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do, SHOW them what you can do.”