BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (WPRI) — As 19-year-old Austin Prario crossed the Boston Marathon finish line in 2017, five-month-old Henry Rochon was down the street at Boston Children’s Hospital recovering from his second open-heart surgery.
“We had him wrapped up in Austin’s blanket with the marathon on TV,” recalled Henry’s mother, Jennifer, in a recent interview with Eyewitness News.
The Rochon family met Prario shortly after Henry was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) that left him with half a functioning heart.
Prario also has a CHD and was the first person with a three-chambered-heart to complete the Boston Marathon.
Defying the odds once wasn’t enough for the now 21-year-old Burrillville man, who’ll be lacing up his sneakers again on Monday to run the 123rd race for the second time.
“I always had a picture of my dad finishing the race in like, a shadow box, and I always looked at that picture and I said, “Wow I really want to do that someday,’” Prario said.
Doctors told him it would never happen. They were wrong.
This year, Prario hopes to not only raise $10,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital, but to show other children with CHDs that anything is possible.
Earlier this year, Prario put out a call on social media for photos of young children with CHDs to display on his jersey. The response was overwhelming, and on Monday, he’ll run the 26-mile stretch with dozens of children’s faces adorning his checkered tank.
“You have kids from Ohio and…around the world, and they’re all coming in with their own different story and their own different family,” Prario said. “And it’s everyone’s different journey, but it all connects through a heart condition and a heart surgery, and that’s what I think is so cool, and that’s why the race is bigger than just one person.”
Prario credits his own family with encouraging him to accomplish anything he sets his mind to. He said he’s also running this year’s race for families like his, and like the Rochons.
“What Austin is doing is great because CHD is something that we never heard of, and come to find out it’s pretty common,” Henry’s father, Joel Rochon said. “It’s very common.”
The Centers for Disease control says roughly 40,000 children are born with CHD each year in the U.S.
Jennifer Rochon said watching Prario’s athletic accomplishments has been a bright spot during their dark days.
“It helps so much,” she said. “Some days are harder than others, so just knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it makes the bad days not so bad.”
So far, Prario has raised close to $8,000 of his $10,000 fundraising goal. To donate, click here.