Competitive runner Heath White has always sought perfection. In his childhood and youth, he was a successful student and athlete.
White, who now serves as an FBI agent, graduated from the air force academy in 2000. The same year, he married his long-time sweetheart, Jennifer.
White expected his children to be perfect. He was, after all, smart, strong, and popular. In his own words, “I have genetically superior genes, a winner with a winner’s blood.”
But in 2007, he found out that he was going to be the father of a girl with Down syndrome. It was almost too much for him to accept. He wanted to walk away from his family. He even considered making his wife abort the baby.
But he decided to stand by his wife and keep baby Paisley. However, he stayed emotionally distant. Then one day, the most amazing thing happened:
“The turning point… I had her down and I tickled her… That’s when I realized she’s like any other kid. She’s my kid.”
Instead of leaving his family, he decided to become the father his daughter deserved. After a brief pause, White returned to running. This time, he completed every single mile with his daughter.
White ran a total of 321 miles with Paisley, a number which has a special meaning for their family.
321 represents the 3rd replication of the 21st chromosome — the genetic condition that results in Down syndrome. After completing 9 marathons and winning several races, White decided that he would no longer run with his daughter.
The reason why? She became strong enough to stand on her own two feet.
Despite knowing that Paisley will grow up to be a strong girl, White couldn’t help but fear for his daughter. He was afraid that people would bully her and call her things like “retard.” So he wrote a letter which beautifully ends:
“Before you were born I only worried about how your disability reflected on me. Now there is no better mirror in the world. You’re my light in the dark, and it’s a privilege to be your dad. Love always, daddy.”
When he completed his last race with her, White only asked one thing from his daughter — a kiss.