BY BONNIE LINEN-CARROLL
Arlington, Virginia, October 17, 2011 – My son Jerry will be 17 years old this October 21. Among the challenges he faces daily, he has Cerebral Palsy, ADHD and LD. When he was 12 years old, Jerry had surgery to correct his legs, as he had been basically walking on the inside of his feet.
The two promised surgeries turned to be eight surgeries and two months of physical therapy has grown to eight to ten months. As a teenager, Jerry has been very disappointed. He hoped the surgeries with all the pain he endured would allow him to be able to walk and run like “normal.”
The last few years have been a very dark time for Jerry. He would say things like “I hate my legs,” “I can’t run,” “I can’t be normal like other people.” He wouldn’t wear shorts, and was ashamed of his legs and people staring at him. Our son didn’t even want to live.
Jerry gained a lot of weight during that period of his life. I quickly realized we were creating another battle to deal with, as the weight was not good for his legs.
About two and a half years ago, Jerry said something that was the healing point for him. He said, “I’m cool with how I look … it’s who I am.” He then put a pair of shorts on, and went on his way. I cried for hours.
I don’t share it often, but I’ve come to realize how healing it is for me to tell and share with others. We can sort of help him with his mental damage, as we continue to deal with his ongoing physical issues. With all of that to worry about, we as parents do whatever it takes to keep our children happy, and feeling good about themselves.
I signed Jerry up for any activity I could find. My goal was to get him more involved socially – he loves being around and talking to people – and to have him to try new adventures. Most of all, I wanted to help him get the weight off!
We learned of World T.E.A.M. Sports and the Adventure Team Challenge – Washington DC through their partner organization, Dreams for Kids. This early August event struck my fancy because the adventure included a bike ride of six miles, canoeing and a mountain climb of sorts. All were activities that would be new for my son. I remember calling the office numerous times to ensure that the challenge would be a good fit for Jerry. Jerry is at a point in his life where he loves trying new things – everything. He had never ridden a bike, except during physical education at school. He always talked about wanting a bike (tandem bikes are not within our budget), so this was the perfect opportunity to see him in motion.
The Adventure Team Challenge – Washington DC was a two day event and everything was very well organized. The World T.E.A.M. Sports staff and the event volunteers were awesome! They were the most caring, gentle giants I have ever met. They made our children believe they could do anything. That sat well with me, as I have always taught our children “that they can do all things with God, who will give them strength.”
Washington’s Revolution Cycles brought the bikes on the first day to fit the children. I had concerns about the bike selected for Jerry, but was assured all would be well. The Boy Scouts came and talked to the participants about safety, hydration, etc. Volunteer young men Jerry’s age and older were paired with each of the participants. They talked and met one another. There was even a huge fruit basket from Edible Fruits for a refreshing and a healthy choice of snacks.
The following day, I was so fearful and concerned when I saw the trail the children would be walking. World T.E.A.M. Sports saw my concern and continuously provided reassurance that everything would be alright. They placed an extra person on Jerry’s team to ensure that things went well. They even told me I could talk with the team, but Jerry wouldn’t hear of it, being a teenager.
Jerry was amazing. The three young men with him were overwhelmed by his determination to just do it, by himself. The volunteers told me Jerry refused any help. He kept saying, “I’m okay … I can do this.” It took awhile for Jerry to arrive from the woods, but World T.E.A.M. Sports kept me continuously updated as to his progress. They were wonderful!
On the bike ride, Jerry had the ride of his life. There was so much care and attention by his team to every detail of his safety and enjoyment.
That evening, my son was so excited, calling family and friends to share his adventure. Some did not believe until they confirmed with me. Jerry then asked, “Mom, when is the next adventure?”
World T.E.A.M. Sports and the volunteers that day poured on buckets of encouragement to all of the participating children. They were very attentive to each and every child that came with their own disability issues. They were the most caring, supportive, attentive group of people you will ever want to send your child with on a challenge. Parents, if you believe your child can participate, send them on an adventure with World T.E.A.M. Sports – they will prove to your child or children that they can!
The Adventure Team Challenge – Washington DC took my son Jerry to the next level of self confidence. He left feeling empowered and confident in himself. I’ve always tried to teach Jerry to not look at his disability, but to pull out his abilities and enjoy the life God has given him.
Jerry accomplished new goals that day that I didn’t think he could accomplish, but would never say to him. I remember at the end of the trail walk, Jerry was asked why he did it. He said, “because I’m a winner, not a loser … a winner.” My son said it, but most of all, World T.E.A.M. Sports helped him to believe it!
On September 24, 2011, Jerry Carroll participated in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Soccer Teen Challenge at Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play at the Ellipse in Washington. The Adventure Team Challenge – Washington DC was held at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park August 9-10, 2011. Sponsors included Push America, Dreams for Kids, the HSC Foundation, The Dralla Foundation, Revolution Cycles and Recreational Equipment, Inc.