Father Who Wanted to Abort Down Syndrome Daughter Finds Joy Pushing Her Across The Finish Line

Matt Vespa
By Matt Vespa | January 14, 2014 | 1:45 PM EST

Heath White was a winner. He was a straight “A” student, a great athlete, and served his country in the Air Force. He finally married the woman he knew since middle school and started a family soon afterwards. It was only when his wife became pregnant with their second child that the feelings of perfection ended.

It was discovered that their second daughter would have Down Syndrome. Heath wanted to abort the child; his wife had different convictions.

It was only seven months after Heath's daughter Paisley was born that he said he turned the corner. A playful interaction with his daughter changed his mind, and it became clear that Heath's world was already perfect; he had just forgotten about it. "She's just like any other kid, said White. "She's my kid." Heath said that he felt happiness from that moment in that Paisley was able to change him.

Then, Heath had a plan. He'd show the world his new daughter – with pride – by running races with her. Heath, by this time no longer participating in competitive running, got back into it – and pushed his daughter in a stroller through numerous 5Ks, 10Ks, and marathons.

During this time, Heath, who by this time was an FBI agent, collected a multitude of medals with his daughter and ran a total of 321 miles together. It's a symbolic number of Down Syndrome's third replication of the 21st chromosome.

Yet, White wasn't without anxiety about Paisley's future. One of his greatest fears was that she'll be called "retarded" later in life, but he now knows that everything wasn't going to be perfect. Nevertheless, he said his love for his daughter was "perfect," and that he's "always going to be there to make sure she gets to the finish line."

This story was featured on ESPN's “E:60” series in October 2012.