Celebrating Differences at Broadmor Elementary
|Robert Reed shares his disability story with the Broadmor students.|
Recently the Broadmor PTA hosted an assembly about Celebrating Differences with a goal of developing an appreciation for accepting individual differences that exist in all people, building a better understanding of the challenges a person with a disability faces, and ultimately teaching that in spite all of our differences, we are all much more alike than we are different.
Broadmor PTA Vice-President Adrian Purdy, whose wife Lisa is in a wheelchair, led the open discussion with the men, who each explained how they have used their disabilities as celebrations – something positive – to help them achieve things they never thought they could. Purdy said, “Just because these men are disabled doesn’t mean they are different from us.”
Purdy asked the kids to look at the person sitting next to them and recognize differences but see how we are all really a lot the same. “It’s about accepting the individual, the person, not the disability,” he explained.
Four men with disabilities spoke about their unique situation and how they have overcome obstacles in their lives in order to celebrate how they are different and yet much the same as you and me.
Nicholas “Nick” Springer, a quadruple amputee, is a vaccination advocate and Paralympic gold medalist who, as a 14-year old boy attending summer camp, fell ill with what he thought was the flu but was actually meningococcal meningitis. Doctors had to put Springer in a medically-induced coma and amputate both his legs at the knee and his arms at the forearm in order to help him survive.
The crowd was quitas Springer described his battle with the disease that would nearly take his life, but instead changed it forever. Because of his experience, Springer’s mother became a founding member of the National Meningitis Association, whose main goal is the education of and vaccination against this devastating illness.
An accomplished athlete, Springer plays rugby, representing the U.S. and medaling in two Paralympic games, helping his team capture gold in Beijing in 2008 and bronze in London in 2012. He has played hockey since the age of five, and he has stayed active in sports his whole life. “If you work hard enough, you can do anything you want,” said Springer.
Robert Reed has Muscular Dystrophy, but he doesn’t let that stop him from being an avid basketball player. His disease has paralyzed him from the waist down, but he uses a wheelchair to get around and a special one to play basketball. His upper body isn’t affected, he explained, “This makes me extremely lucky.” He has played wheelchair basketball for more than 12 years, across the country, and has won numerous awards. He tried out for the London Paralympics and didn’t make the team, but was thankful for an amazing opportunity. “Sports is a great outlet for me,” explained Reed, “and my disability has lead me to where I am today.”
The gym fell silent when Nick Pryor told the story of how he was only four years old when he was accidentally shot in the leg by an older boy. His right leg was amputated below the knee about three weeks later due to the shotgun accident, but that didn’t crush his dreams of playing sports or his love for them. He played baseball, basketball, and football growing up. Pryor played with and against kids with all their limbs, but they didn’t go easy on him. Participating in sports always kept him going and he maintains a positive attitude to this day.
A car accident left Gabriel “Gabe” Gerbic (pictured below in striped shirt) paralyzed from the waist down because of a fracture and dislocation of his spine and bruising of his spinal cord. He has dedicated himself to his own physical fitness and was an accomplished competitive body builder. Gerbic has taught all aspects of health and physical fitness and has worked with children with physical disabilities including adaptive physical education. He has also taught elite and Paralympic athletes as well as nutrition and kinesiology classes at ASU. “It’s okay to ask people with disabilities questions,” explained Gerbic. “Once you start talking to us, you will find out we are a lot like you.”
Principal Barry Fritch said it’s about personal growth and developing a culture of acceptance. “It helps all of us understand kids and each other better,” he said.
After the assembly was over, many children quickly approached the men, to ask even more questions. They were so interested in learning more about them and wanted to get up close to see their prosthetics and their special equipment. It was apparent the culture of understanding and acceptance had already begun.
|Nick Springer high fives a little boy.||Nick Pryor answers a little girl's question.|
Fuller Resource Teacher and President of the Council for Exceptional Children Wendi Socha actually started the Celebrating Differences program at Fuller a few years ago. The goal is to eventually expand this program throughout the District and possibly even valley-wide.
Nick Pryor, Robert Reed, and Lisa Purdy all work for Ability360, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that offers and promotes programs designed to empower people with disabilities to take personal responsibility so that they may achieve or continue independent lifestyles within the community.