“Graham’s Gang” Runs with Purpose

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The 5K for 5P- was held last weekend, and the turnout of runners, walkers, and strollers to raise money and promote awareness for this little-known condition was amazing. Brandon and Christina Brown reported that 154 people registered for the 5K. Runners gathered at the Mint Hill Middle School, where Christina works as a counselor. The Brown’s son, Graham, was diagnosed several months ago with 5P- (also known as Cri du Chat), a condition that limits some of his physical and intellectual development. See “Confronting Cri du Chat with Grit and Grace” for more about little Graham.

Brandon, Christina, and Graham Brown of Mint Hill are confronting Cri du Chat with grit and grace. Little Graham goes to feeding and physical therapy each week and has made a lot of progress. Photo courtesy of the Brown family and Phil and Jena Leide.

“Graham’s Gang” was out in full force, wearing royal blue tee-shirts and striped socks to show their support for the Brown family and 5P- awareness. “It was a day filled with joy and hope,” Christina says. “We loved seeing families come together with their children to raise awareness and to start the important conversation of acceptance and love for those that are different than you.  Our family, friends, coworkers, and community have surrounded us with so much love and support.”

The benefit run/walk, a LuLaRoe fundraiser, and a bake sale raised several hundred dollars that went to the 5P- Society, an organization that provides support and information for families with loved ones with Cri du Chat. Brandon and Christina planned the event with the help of family and friends including Callie DeWese, a school counselor at Mint Hill Middle. “Seeing our community come together to support the Brown family and to raise awareness for this rare genetic disorder was heartwarming,” DeWese says. “It reminded me of the beautiful power in numbers, and that no one should have to walk this life alone!”

Callie DeWese, Kelly Holmes, Angie Blankenship, Christina Brown, and Alexandra Teague among others helped plan the 5K for 5P- this past weekend. Teague, a teacher at Mint Hill Middle, reflected on the event. “Saturday was such an incredible experience! Friends, family, and the community wrapped this sweet family in support and love, which was truly amazing to witness!” she says. “I can’t wait to see how much this event grows next year!” Photo courtesy of the Brown family and Phil and Jena Leide.

Kelly Holmes, another school counselor who works with Christina, says, “It was great to be part of our community coming together to raise awareness for those living with Cri du Chat Syndrome and to support such a special family!”

Christina addressed the crowd prior to the run with a few comments on her family’s journey with this condition. “Looking back, October 7 was the worst day of our lives, but Graham has changed our perspective in so many ways since that day,” she said. “The best days are ahead of us.  We are no longer grieving what Graham can’t do, but we are celebrating who he is and all that he can do and all that he will do.  We celebrate all of the people with Cri du Chat.  They continue to beat the odds.”

Christina holds little Graham to show off his custom tee and striped socks, which were worn with one long and one short. The socks represent the bands of the fifth chromosome with the short one representing the deletion from the chromosome that causes the 5P- syndrome. Royal blue is the color of 5P- or “Cri du Chat” Awareness. Photo courtesy of the Brown family and Phil and Jena Leide.

Christina explained that she and Brandon now have a perspective of joy, bravery, and hope, and she thanked her family and friends who came out to show support for their young son. “We see people who brought meals and who prayed for us – people who wept with us and allowed us to have terrible moments.  Every word, hug, text, and tear built us up and brought us to this place.  We are humbled and honored to share our journey with all of you today and in the future.”

Of the 154 race participants, 23 participated virtually, meaning they completed the race wherever they were able, rather than traveling to Mint Hill.  A family friend serving in the U.S. Air Force and deployed overseas participated by wearing her “Graham’s Gang” tee-shirt and running the 3.1 miles on a treadmill.

Graham’s uncle, Chris, runs along with his nephew Andrew and a friend during this year’s 5K for 5P- event. Photo courtesy of the Brown family and Phil and Jena Leide.

Others, including Christina’s dad, completed the 5K by running a route marked on the campus at Mint Hill Middle. “I often wonder when I am volunteering how much of a difference I am really making,” Tim Frick says. “Seeing all of the good-hearted people that responded for my grandson over the last year and especially at the 5K taught me a great lesson.  I learned that you never know how the little things you do can make such a big impact in other people’s lives.”

Graham’s grandfather, Tim Frick, loves to run and saw the 5K as a great opportunity for an awareness event around 5P- (minus). The event raised several hundred dollars to go to the 5P- Society on behalf of “Graham’s Gang.” Photo courtesy of the Brown family and Phil and Jena Leide.

Brandon Brown stressed that this 5K was a non-competitive event. He and Christina wanted people to be able to participate at the level they felt comfortable.  Marjorie Frick, Christina’s mom, explains, “At a typical 5K, people are there to beat their best time, win the race, support the cause, or just to have something to do.  Everyone that was at the Graham’s Gang 5K for 5P- or who participated virtually did it because they love this family. In today’s world, that is rare, and I am humbled by this community that has risen up to walk beside us on this journey.” She adds, “I always sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’ to Graham, and, at the 5K, I was able to see how his little light is shining in this world.”

Christina and Brandon have been married for six years, and Graham is their first child. The Browns hope the 5K for 5P- will be an annual event in Mint Hill to continue shedding light on this rare condition. “Graham is very loved,” Christina beams. “We can’t wait to see how this event will grow and continue to make an impact in the future.”

Christina and Brandon Brown don’t just have a support system; they have a support village. “Our family is incredible, and they love Graham something fierce!” The family has been there so much for the Browns including lacing up their running shoes for the 5K for 5P- event held this past weekend. Photo courtesy of the Brown family and Phil and Jena Leide.
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