This is a brief essay I wrote for a YMCA fundraising kickoff. The director of Kerwin's baseball league asked if I could come and speak but because it was right in the middle of a work day, there was no way I could make it work. So I wrote this instead. The event was eventually cancelled due to the ice storm so I thought I'd share the essay here:
When we brought our son Kerwin home from Haiti in October of 2007, we already knew he loved sports. On my very first trip to Haiti a year and a half earlier, I played a form of soccer with him as I held him up, dangling his atrophied legs over a ball so he could take a flailing kick at it. When we played with him at the mission where he lived from the ages of two to six, he would always head back to the storage closet to rummage through the box where they had a collection of balls and other sports equipment. He would search for the hand pump and begin to blow up a flat, second-hand basketball. As we waited in Haiti’s capitol Port-au-Prince for his passport to be granted, one of the first movies he learned to love was Air Bud.
Just through observing, Kerwin quickly taught himself to imitate the proper technique for shooting a basketball, swinging a bat, throwing a spiral, and diving to dig out a spike. He is a very athletic child and has great eye hand coordination. He also has spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy which mainly affects his muscle strength and control from the trunk down. He uses a rolling walker to get around most of the time. Kerwin also has severe to profound hearing loss.
When Kerwin was two years old, he weighed nine pounds and suffered from severe malnourishment and neglect. At five years old he was just beginning to pull himself up like a toddler beside tables and railings. Today he is a three-sport superstar in the Toyota Bluegrass Miracle League, the NFL Flag Football League, and the Jump Start Basketball League. Kerwin began playing baseball last spring and to say he loved it would be an understatement. It was the highlight of every week. Every night before bed we would talk about what the next day would bring. Kerwin quickly learned the signs for each day of the week and would say, “Monday, school. Tuesday, school. Wednesday, school. Thursday, school. Friday, school.” And then with great excitement, “Saturday, BASEBALL!”
We have been thrilled with the addition of the fall baseball league, the flag football league and the basketball league. Kerwin has been equally excited about each one. It is wonderful for us as well, his parents, grandparents, family and friends, to get to watch him participate in something he loves so much that we do not have to initiate, assist in, or make sure that appropriate accommodations are made. As a parent of a special needs child, you spend so much of your time and energy advocating for your child. What a blessing it has been for us to participate in these adapted programs that are well-organized, well-thought out, and well-run. From our whole family, we would like to say a huge thank you to the YMCA for its support of athletic opportunities for children with special needs.
January 24, 2009