An Attleboro teacher is running his first Boston Marathon next month, and he's doing it for his baby daughter who has Down syndrome.
Matthew Gousie, a seventh-grade teacher at Wamsutta Middle School, will be a charity runner for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress team at the 121st running of the marathon on April 17.
"I'm excited, but it's nervous excitement. As you get closer, it becomes more and more real," Gousie said.
His daughter Cecelia, 15 months, has Down syndrome, a genetic condition arising from a chromosomal irregularity. It affects 90 to 95 babies in Massachusetts each year, according to the syndrome congress.
"When we found out, I was scared. But, we quickly started to educate ourselves and meet families and realized it was going to be a blessing," Gousie said.
Children with Down syndrome learn to sit, walk, talk, and play like other children, but the milestones might be delayed. One of the common physical traits is low muscle tone, which Gousie says affects everything from crawling to talking.
"When I began to see how hard Cecelia had to work at her early intervention appointments (provided by the Kennedy-Donovan Center in Attleboro) to complete tasks such as rolling over, sitting up on her own and crawling, I began to feel like I should be working that hard as well," Gousie said.
Gousie decided to apply to join the team of eight runners, and he began training in earnest last November.
"When you are a charity runner, they send you a plan. You have one long run a week. It started at 8 or 9 miles, and I'm now up to 19 miles," Gousie said.
Gousie says he won't run the full length of the marathon, 26.2 miles, until that day.
"The most I will run (during training) is 21 miles," Gousie said.
He has raised more than $15,700 thus far, but hopes to raise more.
Gousie is hoping his run will help raise awareness of Down syndrome. He says he and his wife Derrah are "continually trying to eliminate some of the negative connotations."
"So many people have donated, and hopefully now people know more about Down syndrome or have a different idea about it. That's the big thing," Gousie said.
Gousie says that Down syndrome is part of his daughter, but it doesn't define her.
"Someday, maybe she will be proud of me for doing this. She'll say, 'My dad did that for me.' So, she'll know how proud I am of her," Gousie said.
LAURA CALVERLEY is a freelance writer for The Sun Chronicle. She can be reached at email@example.com.