Abbey Kaiser is a young runner from Madison who just happens to have Down syndrome. Last May, Abbey completed not just one but two Madison Marathon events—the Twilight 10K and, the very next morning, the half-marathon as a captain with her myTEAM TRIUMPH angels. While this would be an impressive feat for any athlete, when Abbey crosses the finish line, she also is showing the world the amazing things that people with Down syndrome can achieve. Her joy shines through in a Focal Flame race photo from the Twilight 10K that was selected to be displayed in Times Square in New York City in September, 2015 for a showcase on behalf of the National Down Syndrome Society.
Focal Flame Photography, the official photographer for the 2015 Madison Marathon events, talked to Abbey and her mom Danielle about Abbey’s accomplishments.
Focal Flame Photography (FFP): How long have each of you been runners?
Abbey Kaiser (AK): One year this month!
Danielle Kaiser (DK): I never consider myself a runner because life gets in the way too much for me to do so with any regularity! But over the past year I've tried to [run] with increasing regularity and have made more of a point of trying to achieve some miles versus no miles at all.
FFP: Do you usually run together?
AK: I've ran twice with my mom. She got me started. We did the Haunted Hustle, then the Twilight 10K. We will be at the Haunted Hustle again. Watch for us! I try to practice with my mom a little too.
FFP: What other events have you done?
AK: myTEAM Triumph has included me in the spring half marathon, which was early the next morning after the Twilight 10K! Then I did the HER Half Marathon, which was all ladies. Then I got to do the Pardeeville Triathalon because my half marathon Angel Eric asked me to! Then I did the Door County Tri, which is a half Ironman! The August half marathon was my most recent race.
Editor’s Note: Abbey participates in myTEAM Triumph, an athletic mentoring program that supports individuals with disabilities in endurance events. Abbey has completed seven endurance races with the group.
FFP: Are there other races you'd like to run?
AK: A full marathon and the full Ironman!
FFP: What do you like most about running?
AK: I like the people! I like the volunteers who help give out water and Gu! The cheering helps too. Like I like to say, "Cheer louder”! I love looking up on the wall and seeing my medals."
FFP: How have you been involved with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)? What do you want others to know about the organization?
DK: I have been involved with NDSS for about five years. A small staff in Washington and a national network of volunteer advocates work on issues that are pertinent to people with Down syndrome but affect others with disabilities. The advocacy being done in Washington D.C. affects not only the lives of Abbey and others sharing a Down syndrome diagnosis, but are much larger issues. Over the past several years, NDSS advocates have lobbied for the ability for individuals with disabilities to have savings accounts. It sounds very simple but there were surprisingly low limits to the amount of savings one could have if they utilized disability benefits. Congress passed the ABLE (Achieving A Better Life Experience) Act late in 2015. The simple right to save for needs is a reality advocates worked on for years that will affect many. Next, our nationwide volunteers will work with police forces to ensure first responders are trained and know how to respond to meet the needs of individuals with developmental and other disabilities.
NDSS also makes sure at least once a year to celebrate people with Down syndrome. NDSS shows on a big scale that people with Down syndrome are amazing, and contribute great value to their families, their communities, and make contributions that have positive impacts.
Editor’s Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. To learn what you can do to celebrate and raise awareness, visit the National Down Syndrome Society website.
FFP: What do you want others to know about living with Down syndrome?
DK: There are things that make Abbey exceptional. Some of them are the same as what makes people reading this exceptional, and some are different. But we all have a heart and feelings and passions and things that move us! We all need a little help sometimes. People with Down syndrome are more like you and I than different. People are just people. We are all unique. Invite someone in. Get to know each other. Care about each other. You are the key to make a difference, and someone else - quite likely a person with Down syndrome, maybe even Abbey - can make a difference in you!
AK: People can treat people with Down syndrome with respect and kindness. People should treat us as the same as them, not different. People with disabilities like to do the same things. I do yoga! I love One Direction! And concerts. And playing music! So let's have fun together!
To get to know Abbey better, follow her on Twitter @abbeysupnotdown.
This article is part of a series featuring athletes who are participating in a Madison Marathon event in 2015. Focal Flame Photography is honored to serve as official photographers for the Madison Marathon. All runners will receive free FocalShare™ digital race photos courtesy of the event organizers. The Fall Madison Marathon events will occur on November 8, 2015 on the streets of Wisconsin's capitol city. For more information or to register, visit Madison Marathon.
- by Erin Patterson