Ten-year-old Benton Hills was born with a rare genetic syndrome called Bainbridge Ropers. He cannot walk, talk, requires a feeding tube and has the mental aptitude of a 2- or 3-year-old.
Despite those challenges, Benton’s parents want their son to experience as much of a full life as possible. So at the Alaska Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, Benton’s mother, Tamara, with the help of others, pushed her son 26.2 miles.
“He loves to be outside, with the wind in his face, the breeze blowing by,” said Hills, 42, who lives in Lake Forest Park, Wash., and works for Brooks.
“My husband and I are resolute about giving him experiences he wouldn’t be able to have without our help. Just because of the limitations doesn’t mean he should be shortened on experiences.”
It was the third time Tamara has pushed Benton during a marathon. Their finishing time this year was 4 hours, 47 minutes.
People suffering from Bainbridge Ropers sometimes exhibit manic, spastic behavior. Of Benton’s behavior when he’s being pushed in the marathon, Tamara said, “He smiles. He’s just chill. When we get going he’s just as happy as can be. His legs will kick up and down. When we see his legs flying up and down, we know he’s having a good time.”
Tamara’s twin sister, Tracy, flew from Louisville, Ky., to push Benton a few miles. Moved by Tamara’s grit and love of her son, runners and spectators filled her with encouragement.
Said Tamara, “I hear, ‘That’s awesome … Keep it up, you guys … If you can do it, I can do it.”
And some people ask if they can push the stroller, even if it’s just for a few steps.
“Some people just want to put their hands on the stroller, push it for 10 steps,” said Tamara. “There’s something about it that gives them energy.”