TEMPLE HILLS – Children’s National Health Systems will hold its annual Race for Every Child in October, and one local tandem embodies the spirit of the event like no other team.
Temple Hills resident Byron Dixon will push his 12 year-old sister Anniyah in her wheelchair for the duration of the 5K race, to help her cross the finish line and assist with donations to go toward the hospital. This will be the pair’s second race together, and 12-year-old Byron is committed to raising $1,000 for Team Anniyah.
“I thought that the race was a very good way of showing that I can support my sister,” Dixon said. “And showing our support for Children’s National because I’m grateful that they were able to [save her].”
Anniyah was born with a litany of health complications, and her birthing hospital was unable to provide the level of care required. She was taken to Children’s National for further treatment and was diagnosed with two genetic anomalies. At four weeks old, Anniyah had open heart surgery, eventually spending the first three months of her life in various hospital units.
“From there, Children’s really became like our second home,” said their mother Darcel Jackson Dixon. “She has about 23 different specialty providers that provide care for her in all of her different diagnoses and conditions.”
Anniyah suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy, hearing and visual impairment and has needed numerous orthopedic surgeries. Dixon estimated her daughter spends about two weeks per year at Children’s National, in addition to other outpatient appointments and check-ups.
Dixon leads Team Anniyah and has been involved in the race for several years. She initially took part in the race on her own, but then the rest of the family joined in, including Byron and husband Mark. Dixon has served as a parent adviser on Children’s National Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) for the last four years, and Team Anniyah is participating in support of the organization.
The purpose of PFAC is encouraging and facilitating cooperation between families and the hospital, explained Dixon. The group works to allow the patient and family to remain a part of the medical decision-making process, while advocating for a strong partnership between families and the hospital. For the last three years, the council has had a tent at the event to boost community engagement and educate others about their cause.
This year marks the sixth edition of the race, which will take place at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 20. Registration is open to the public, closing six days prior to the event. Proceeds with go to Children’s National.
“We are a nonprofit pediatric hospital, so we need funding to support a lot of different causes at the hospital, and a lot of different kids and families benefit from that,” said Children’s National Foundation Associate Director of Marketing and Communications Morgan McKean.
McKean added that around 5,000 to 6,000 people are expected to attend the race, as it draws a variety of participants and attracts people from throughout the Washington, D.C. area.
“The race is a great experience for everyone,” McKean said. “There’s people that run or walk, that have a very strong connection to Children’s National, or they just want to support pediatric care. It really is a community event that has something to offer everyone.”
The Dixons fall in both categories, a distinct link to the hospital along with a commitment to helping it succeed. The family expressed excitement for the upcoming race, beyond the fundraising or networking aspects.
“It’s this big event that we can walk side by side with other patients, other families, the clinicians that support care of our children” Dixon said. “It’s a moment for us to not necessarily focus so much on our kids and the care they’re going through, but just smile, laugh, spend some time and do it all for a great cause.”