By Alix J. Shutello
Photos provided by Brady Murray
In 2007, Brady Murray and his wife, Andrea, were blessed with their second of five children: Nash, who has Down syndrome. Nash was Murray’s entre’ into the Down syndrome community, where he learned about the atrocities of special needs children born outside of the U.S., who are often placed in orphanages and neglected. When Nash was 4, the Murrays learned of the numerous American families who wanted to adopt children with Down syndrome from foreign countries. The costs were prohibitive – up to $40,000 in some cases. Further, the red tape made it difficult for families to complete an adoption.
The History of RODS
In 2011, the Murrays started Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome (RODS). After having their fourth child, Murray and his wife, who were running RODS now with the support of the Down syndrome community, adopted Cooper, from China, who also has Down syndrome who completed the
“My wife and I started to work to raise funds, one child at a time. The first child we sponsored, Eli, had been eligible for adoption for 4 years when we heard about him,” Murray said. “Nobody had inquired about him during that period. We wanted to help; and there are so many families who want to adopt, but simply don’t have the financial means to do so.
“We decided the best way for us to help would be to try to fundraise to create an adoption grant for Eli, to help bridge the financial gap if a family came forward to adopt him. We witnessed a miracle: in 30 days, we raised $20,000 for Eli’s adoption…and the very next month after raising that money, a family came forward to adopt him. After 4 years of waiting, Eli finally had his family.”
RODS (whose mission is to fundraise for adoptive parents) partners with Reece’s Rainbow, an organization that advocates and find families for orphans with Down syndrome and other special needs by raising funds for adoption grants. Since 2012, RODS has funded 32 adoption grants; 25 of their sponsored children are already matched with adoptive parents in the U.S.
“I find children with Down syndrome to be inspiring,” Murray said. “Nash makes me a better person, and he’s the type of friend anyone would want.”
While some of the children are from
Reece’s Rainbow, Murray has also found kids to sponsor through his own networks. “I happened to find a kid in Peru when I was there for work,” Murray said. “Then, someone else contacted me and mentioned she adopted a child with Down syndrome from China. Not long after, I learned of another little Chinese girl with Down syndrome, and I couldn’t get her off my mind. We had to petition the country to get her eligible for adoption!”
Fortunately, there are advocates in China who help to get these children registered in an adoption registry.
“What happened to that little girl?” Murray said. “She has a home! She is in the U.S. with a family.”
The RODS Vision
“The ultimate vision for RODS is to find a home for every single orphan child who has Down syndrome,” Murray said. “But getting there will take a lot of work.”
Fortunately, RODS has strong partnerships – in particular with the Idaho Potato Commission and its CEO, Frank Muir, who believes in Murray’s cause.
The story goes as follows, Murray reported: “One of our athletes, Trace Dandrea, who has a son with Down syndrome, was an executive for McCain Food. He had a connection with the Idaho Potato Commission, so I met with their executive board in 2013. From that point on, the Commission has been an ardent supporter – even matching a full adoption grant in 2016 to fund two orphans at once.
“Our big break that really got us going was when I was featured on the NBC IRONMAN broadcast in 2012. The presenting sponsor, Rob Wight of MyList, has a son with Down syndrome, and he was able to make arrangements for me to race in KONA,” Murray said.
The “R” in RODS: The Racers
The athletes who race for RODS include hundreds of dedicated members from around the United States, Canada, and Europe; RODS has 245 registered athletes in the U.S. RODS Team athletes are inspired not just to race, but to race for a purpose: to help orphans with Down syndrome, one child at a time, find an adoptive family. This year, they are running for a 4-year-old child named Logan. Athletes can do any distance or activity – a 5K walk, 10K run, 20-mile bike ride, a triathlon, a marathon – to raise money and awareness.
“These athletes work together with advocates and community members as heroes to raise adoption grant funds for these orphans. All grant fund donations are tax-deductible and help make the cost of international adoptions for the adoptive family more affordable. Several families that run for RODS have also become adoptive families to RODS’s own orphans.”
To date, RODS has raised over $800,000 and has sponsored the adoption of 32 children.
About Brady Murray
Murray, who owns a financial planning company, grew up playing sports; but running for fun was not something he enjoyed. It wasn’t until he got involved with the Down syndrome community that it sparked his idea of racing for a cause.
“Since starting RODS, I’ve completed 8 half and 2 full Ironman-Distance
triathlons. Andrea and I both qualified for Boston in 2016, and ran the 2017 race in RODS gear!”
What would Murray say about his mission? “The person you become is
determined by who you surround yourself with; and I am proud to be part of this tremendous community.”
Support RODS: http://RODS.org