Run to re­mem­ber

Dis­abled youth teams up with marathoner,

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - RON­ALD ZA­JAC Rza­jac@post­media.com

They come from dif­fer­ent ends of the con­ti­nent, but Liam Bakker and Wil­liam Flynn make per­fect run­ning mates.

Fri­day ’s Law En­force­ment Torch Run in Brockville al­lowed Bakker, 21, to team up at last with Flynn, an IT con­sul­tant and marathon run­ner from Texas, who came across Bakker on a Face­book group called I Run 4 Michael.

“They pair up run­ners with those who can­not run,” said Flynn, who lives in New Braun­fels, TX, near San An­to­nio.

Liam, the adopted son of area res­i­dents Mike and Kirsti Bakker, has a rare mu­ta­tion of an X-linked gene known as KIAA2022.

As a re­sult of the con­di­tion, he has the mind of an in­fant but the phys­i­cal abil­i­ties of an older person, re­quir­ing con­stant care.

Flynn met Bakker over the In­ter­net in the fall of 2016, and he and his wife, Rachel, finally got to meet him in person last Thurs­day.

“Now we are ac­tu­ally able to get the fam­i­lies to­gether. It’s cool that run­ning has been able to cre­ate a con­nec­tion,” said Wil­liam Flynn.

Kirsti Bakker, Liam’s adop­tive mother, works as an ed­u­ca­tional as­sis­tant and pi­ano teacher while her hus­band is a med­i­cal courier at LifeLabs.

Their at­tempts to get to the bot­tom of Liam’s con­di­tion and cre­ate a plan for his life have been fea­tured in pre­vi­ous Recorder and Times sto­ries, as have the con­nec­tions the lo­cal fam­ily has made with others around the world fac­ing sim­i­lar predica­ments.

As a re­sult of Liam’s case be­ing made pub­lic, an on­line com­mu­nity of KIAA2022 fam­i­lies has now grown to 28 girls and 14 boys, spread around the globe, in­clud­ing Canada, the United States, Eng­land, the Nether­lands, Ger­many, Is­rael and Aus­tralia.

Liam Bakker’s case also has a place in his­tory, as it is fea­tured as a case study in a re­cent is­sue of the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Med­i­cal Ge­net­ics. One of the ar­ti­cle’s au­thors is Dr. Jagdeep Walia, a ge­neti­cist at Queen’s Univer­sity who has been work­ing on Liam’s case.

Flynn pushed Liam in a type of stroller in Fri­day’s ver­sion of the Law En­force­ment Torch Run in Brockville, a po­lice-run event rais­ing funds for the Spe­cial Olympics.

“He was very ex­cited. He had his hand up wav­ing at peo­ple,” Flynn re­called.

For Kirsti Bakker, it was an­other of those oc­ca­sions in which her son made an im­me­di­ate con­nec­tion.

“He last night fell asleep against Wil­liam; he just doesn’t do that,” she said on Fri­day.

“You have to be some­body spe­cial.”

The get-to­gether hap­pened be­cause the Flynns, in­clud­ing their eight-year-old daugh­ter Char­lotte, are on a fam­ily trip to Canada.

It was a lucky co­in­ci­dence that the torch run fell in the same pe­riod.

Wil­liam Flynn, who has com­pleted four of the six ma­jor world marathons, said the I Run For idea pro­vides great mo­ti­va­tion.

“I started to think about mak­ing the run­ning about more than just my­self,” he said.

Run­ning for Liam gives him “that ex­tra push” to get to the fin­ish line, he added.

While com­plet­ing the run was a mile­stone for Liam, meet­ing him was some­thing of a mile­stone for Flynn. “He’s real now,” he said. “I get to ac­tu­ally see him and give him high-fives.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Wil­liam Flynn pushes Liam Bakker dur­ing the Law En­fore­ce­ment Torch Run on Fri­day.

RON­ALD ZA­JAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

From left, Wil­liam Flynn looks on as Liam Bakker in­ter­acts with Flynn’s wife, Rachel, on Fri­day.

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