Sometimes people think that those with Cerebral Palsy could never be athletic. Think again. Athletes with Cerebral Palsy are as numerous as they are fierce, and as inspirational as they are dedicated. Take Devon Berry, for example, who played football and wrestled in high school despite having Cerebral Palsy and not being able to stand without a walker. Only fresh out of high school, Berry has spoken as a motivational speaker, was featured on ESPN’s E:60 program, and is passionate about focusing on ability rather than disability.
Berry refuses to let his limited lower-body mobility limit his aspirations as a student-athlete. He is slated to attend St. Cloud State University in Minnesota with a wrestling scholarship. For those who are unfamiliar with St. Cloud’s wrestling reputation, they are the defending NCAA Division II wrestling national champions. Berry is a stellar example of the kind of resilience and can-do attitude that wows, inspires, and enthuses so many other aspiring athletes who happen to have Cerebral Palsy. His life and accomplishments are proof that one’s potential, whether athletic or otherwise, does not have to be restricted by Cerebral Palsy.
Bonner Paddock, another athlete with Cerebral Palsy, continues to push the envelope of what is possible, even with a past decorated with triumphs and records. Paddock was the first person with Cerebral Palsy to successfully climb Mount Kilimanjaro without assistance (in 2008), and also the first person with Cerebral Palsy to complete the notoriously difficult Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii (in 2012). It needn’t be mentioned that both of these feats are difficult enough for those without a disability, but Paddock completed them even with spastic diplegia, or the kind of Cerebral Palsy characterized by a stiffened lower body that limits coordination. In Paddock’s case, his feet are the least coordinated, causing his stride’s weight to rest on his toes instead of his heels.
But this did not dissuade Paddock from summiting a mountain over 19,000 feet, or deter him from completing the most grueling competition on earth. Available as of just last year, Paddock penned a critically acclaimed memoir One More Step detailing his adventures, obstacles, and personal story. He also is featured in the 2010 documentary “Beyond Limits” that follows his and others’ ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro. The main motive behind Paddock’s awe-inspiring endeavors is his wish to inspire children with disabilities to triumph over their own challenges. The real lesson behind his achievements is to inspire those with Cerebral Palsy or other disabilities to think positive and to create new and ambitious goals for themselves, never giving up along the way.
Both Berry and Paddock are fine examples of extraordinary athletes who happen to have Cerebral Palsy, and who prefer to replace the mentality of ‘disability’ with ‘ability’. If they can do it, so can others. While Berry’s and Paddock’s accomplishments are certainly impressive, they are not what makes them successful athletes. Dedication, resilience, and the right attitude are the real ingredients for a successful athlete, no matter the challenges that are to be faced.