News: Parents achieve 26-mile goal to support daughter, Down syndrome research
Story by Cpl. Mary Carmona
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - She grabbed her shoes, threw them on and slipped out the door. At first, it was just a walk – just to clear her head.
Suddenly, she realized she wasn’t walking anymore. She was racing down the roads of her neighborhood.
Her five-month old daughter, Ashlynn, had just gone through an open heart surgery, one of many health challenges Ashlynn faced as a child with Down syndrome.
“I’m really sentimental, I don’t like to see people in hospitals,” said Leyda Simon, a military spouse aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “I just couldn’t picture her like she was after her surgery. I needed to walk; I needed to get everything off my mind. All of the sudden, I saw myself running.”
That Sunday afternoon Simon realized that she didn’t want to stop running.
Running was an outlet for the stress, but it could be so much more than that. It could be a way that Leyda and her family supported Ashlynn.
“One day I put on Facebook that I was training for a marathon,” Leyda said. “I asked, Who is with me on this one?’”
She said she was just playing around at this point. She wanted to run but wasn’t ready for a full marathon.
Later when Leyda checked her status, friends had replied to her post saying, “I’m with you on this one!”
So, Leyda and her husband, retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Chad Simon, registered to run the Marine Corps Marathon that fall under the team name Team Ashlynn, in honor of their daughter.
All funds that the Simons raised would go to charity Research Down Syndrome.
She threw herself into the training, running some days with her husband, some days with the Stroller Warriors, a running club based out of Camp Lejeune, and some days on her own.
“There was no way that I was going to be ready, but I told Chad, I want to run the marathon this year,” Leyda said. “I started training without knowing anything about running. Ashlynn was my motivation. I wanted to run for her.”
Leyda and Chad successfully completed their first full marathon Nov. 12, 2013.
“I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with Achilles tendinitis, wearing the wrong socks and the wrong shoes,” Leyda said. “I was feeling motivated for Ashlynn. I needed to finish the race. After I finished it, even though I was in pain, I wanted more.”
Participating in the marathon to raise money for charity was only the beginning for the “Simon Six,” as many affectionately call Leyda, Chad and their four children – Ashton, Ethan, Ian and Ashlynn.
The Simon’s plan to participate in one marathon a year to raise funds for charities, such as Research Down Syndrome.
Leyda is currently training for the New York Marathon, which will take place Nov. 2.
But it isn’t just the grand gestures we make that count for something. Something as small as a soda can tab might make a world of difference to a child in need.
“One day I was out running, and I saw some cans, about five, lying out, and I stopped and I got the tabs off of them,” Leyda said. “A girl saw me and said to me, ‘What are you doing?’ and I told her, ‘These tabs are like money to the Ronald McDonald house!’”
Thanks to people like Leyda, chapters of the Ronald McDonald House Charities raise as much as $30,000 from their “pop tab collections,” according to the Ronald McDonald House Charity's website.
Many people acknowledge that donating to charity or giving to someone in need is a good thing to do, but not everyone acts on that knowledge.
To Leyda and Chad Simon, a simple saying in their Nike running smartphone application sums it up – “every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”