Here at bring-the-kids, we acknowledge that although we enjoy getting out with our kids and having adventures, there are many more people out there who exemplify the ideals and philosophies that we embrace better than we can. So we are beginning our interview series of individuals and families who are inspirational to us, have great stories, plus good advice that can benefit us all.
As our first post in our interview series, we are getting the perspective of two parents who have exemplified perseverance through challenges that would keep most of us home and never even considering the next adventure with our kids. Instead of making excuses, they choose to figure out how to live life to its fullest.
Roger and Christine have a 28 year old son named Sam who was born with cerebral palsy. He has been in a wheel chair since he was three and will be for the rest of his life. He has limited muscle control and is completely dependent on others for food, water and other basic needs.
The amazing thing about this family is that despite something that would slow most of us down, it has never stopped them. They take Sam skiing, biking, rappelling, waterskiing, horseback riding, camping, swimming, hiking and enjoy a full and active life. Here is a movie from their last ski season.
Here is a recent article of a hike that Sam and the whole family did with Chad Lewis (former NFL player) did to support one of their friends with cancer.
As you can see, he doesn’t let much stop him. So without further adue, here are some excerpts of our interview with Roger and Christine.
BTK: Tell us a little bit about how you kept active despite the challenges of Sam’s cerebral palsy.
Roger: When we were first married we would go hiking and camping for entertainment. We had fun doing that. When our first son Nick came along, we just took him camping with us and it was a riot. We just kind of adapted and it wasn’t like we had money to do anything else. It was free.
Then Sam came along and we just did the same thing until he got too big. Then we always tried to figure out a way to do it. By this time camping was what we liked to do, it was fun. Some people go get boats, four-wheelers or do other things. We like to camp, ski, and get out and enjoy the outdoors; in addition, it was the cheap family outing.
So as Sam got bigger we decided if there was a will there was a way. We kept trying new things and would improvise.
BTK: Can you give us a specific example of how you improvised?
Christine: We enjoyed biking. We started with a seat on the back of the bike for Sam, when he outgrew that, we got a bike trailer. Then when he was too big for that, some engineering students who knew Sam decided to make a convertible trailer for us so we could go both hiking and biking. We found ways to make it work and the best thing is that Sam loves it. One of the greatest rewards is to see how pumped Sam gets. That makes it all worth it. We wanted to get out, so we made connections with people who had the skills we lacked and their friendships made it happen.
BTK: What gives you motivation to take on the challenges and effort to get out with Sam?
Christine: We decided early on that with Sam we could live one of two ways, we can sit home and feel sorry or we can figure out how to do something and then go and do it. Everybody can sit home and watch others have adventures on TV or you can live it. Live your own adventure instead of someone else’s. You don’t remember the ones you see on TV or the movies, but you remember the adventures you have personally.
Many people come up with excuses of why they can’t go, we just decided to find ways rather than excuses.
BTK: What are some of the challenges that you face when trying to get out with your family and how do you overcome those challenges.
Roger: For skiing, we would take Nick with us and poor Sam would always stay home. Then Christine saw a story on TV about handicapped and disabled individuals skiing. When we were up in Park City over Thanksgiving one year we decided to call the National Ability Center [NAC]. They were encouraging the whole time and they told us to bring Sam over and they could get him going that day if we wanted. We didn’t believe them, but we went to check it out. They put him on skis right away and we were blown away. Through the NAC, they also introduced us to horseback riding, water skiing and tandem rappelling in addition to skiing. The biggest thing we learned from all of this was the “we can do this” attitude.
Trying new things with Sam was contagious. When you surround yourself with good friends and family who are active and willing to experiment rather than saying “goodbye, you can’t come”, they say “let’s figure out how we can do it”. Some time you have to modify it and there are a few things you put the nix on, but in general we’ve been amazed at what we have done and continue to do.
In fact, one day we drove up just as Nick and a friend were out with ropes and tie downs trying to figure out a way to tie Sam to the friend and go for a motorcycle ride. We put a stop to that one; use your common sence, this was not a good idea. But that is an illustration of the kinds of people we have around us. They are always thinking of ways to get Sam involved and we have been so blessed because of it.
BTK: What were some of the scariest moments you’ve had with Sam?
Roger: One day, Nick rented the bi-ski with sam and headed up the mountain. When it came time to get off of the lift, Nick forgot to unhook the carabiner holding Sam to the ski lift. When they tried to get off, Sam was half way off, but couldn’t go any further. He got trapped under the lift and dragged around the corner and then was hanging from the lift by the time they got it shut off. We laugh at it now, but we were shaken a bit at the time. But it didn’t stop us. We could have an accident at home just as we could have one out on the mountain.
BTK: Do these scary experiences ever deture you from going out again?
Christine: Sure, with waterskiing, we decided it was too scary for us to watch, so we haven’t done that since the
first time. Sam loved it and would do it again, but it was too hard for us as parents to watch from the boat, counting the seconds that Sam was underwater until they were able to right him. It was only four seconds, but was long enough for us. Despite that, there are so many other things that we CAN do, we don’t feel that we are missing out.
BTK: What are some of the challenges of getting out with Sam and how did you overcome these?
Christine: Logistics were one of the biggest challenges in the beginning. There is a lot more gear and coordination we need to do for Sam. People often ask us, why do you go so early to so many things like the movies or sporting events? There is limited parking or seating for someone in a wheelchair, so we go early to ensure we get to do what we’ve planned. Over the years you develop a “we can do this” attitude and the planning and logistical side just becomes part of the activities. We just kept trying it out and if we had to change, we adapted as we went.
BTK: Tell us about one of your favorite memories
Roger: Back in 2002, when the Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Sam got to be one of the torch runners for the Paralympics. That was amazing. One of the best things about that and so many other experiences like it is that we have had the opportunity to interact with some of the most amazing people in the world. The people that we meet are genuine, kind and they have compassion. For people with special needs like Sam you either embrace them and become a part of their lives or you are afraid of them because you don’t know what to do with them. The special group that embraces them are all amazing in their own regard.
Christine: You know how people say that when you are growing up you need to choose good friends, the same advice applies when you are older. We have friends now who have helped us through our hardest times and who would be willing to help us do anything. With Sam you quickly see the true character of individuals, they either melt away into their own lives or they embrace him.
BTK: What advise would you give to parents to help them overcome the challenges they face?
Do what you enjoy and keep at it. You get better with time. We would suggest you start small and get comfortable with it. Like for camping, start small and build confidence. Do a picnic. Then camp in the backyard, then go car camping keep it simple and fun. Also, get other’s involved in situations when you may not have the experience you need. If we had just jumped into skiing with Sam, we may not still be doing it due to a bad experience or two, but by starting small and involving others with more experience, skiing has become one of our favorite family activities.