There was a time, not so long ago, that being disabled was almost worse than a death sentence.
It meant living in a chair.
Watching from the sidelines.
Not talked to.
Not taken out in public.
The wheelchairs were heavy and cumbersome.
Nothing was accessible.
It was easier to be at home.Maybe not even easier to be home, because homes weren't accessible either.
I know that people stare at Kumaka.
I see it.
I see kids do double takes, triple takes.
I know they want to ask their parents what happened to him.
Parents shush their kids and pull them away.
Kumaka stares back.
I'm sure wishing they would come back and play.
Sometimes parents will "let" their kids come over to play.
Unless they start asking questions.
Then they gather them up.
This year something magical happened.
Kumaka was given a different kind of wheelchair.
A WCMX wheelchair.
It has changed his whole life.
(This picture is when it was new....it was given to us after much use by Timmy "Fun Size")
There are a couple of things missing on this chair.
About twenty extra pounds.
At first, he was afraid of falling.
Afraid of getting hurt.
Christiaan "Rollin' Otter", Kumaka
He rolled around in this wheelchair still living in the "wheelchair box".
Little by little he went faster, he pushed himself a little more.
He tried some new things.
Wheelchair fun runs.
And then Venice happened.
We went to a Life Rolls On event at the Venice Skatepark.
Jesse Billauer,Kumaka, Tiphany Adams
The event was amazing.
So many volunteers to make sure that everyone was safe.
And wonderful pros to teach everyone.
Aaron "Wheelz", Christiaan "Rollin' Otter"
Volunteer, Kumaka, Rollin' Otter
Kumaka, Lizard King
Aaron "Wheelz", Kumaka
Fun with friends.
Day of smiles.
Misty Diaz, Kumaka
Suddenly, Kumaka has found that his chair is not a hindrance.
He's not afraid anymore.His chair still makes him stand out.
But in a completely different way.
The chair is allowing him to LIVE.
Kids point still, and they watch him.
They want to figure out how he is balancing on two wheels.
Or how he hopped the curb.
Or how he does those 360's so fast.
They want a spin on those wheels.
When a toddler is learning to walk, they fall. All the time. Then they pick themselves up only to fall again. Eventually, they fall less...that's when they start walking...and then running.
When a person in a wheelchair falls, people get scared. They rush to help them up. They check to make sure nothing is injured. They are told to be careful, to not hurt themselves. And of course that is all well meaning.
But sometimes, just sometimes. people have to think outside of the chair.
That's the way the way they only truly live.
Kumaka is learning to fall.
He's also learning how to get up.
More importantly he's learning how to keep going.
He's learning how to think outside of the chair.
He's learning how to live....and really enjoy himself doing it.
Left to right:
Aaron "Wheelz" Fotheringham, Lourdes Mack, Jonathan "Fatboy" Stark, "Rockin" Kumaka Jensen AKA "Little", Christiaan "Rollin' Otter" Bailey, Quinn Waitley, Timothy "Fun Size" Rodriguez, Mike Box (Wheelchair maker extraordinaire) , David Lebuser, Troy McGuirk
I am grateful to Mike Box who listens to people and creates chairs that allow people to LIVE.
I am grateful to all of the coaches and athletes that have gone before Kumaka...and work hard to show littles like him that there is a whole lot of fun to be had...whether you are in a chair or not.
I am grateful for the friends we have made on this journey so far...they are near and dear to my heart...they've given my boy wings and a strength to do whatever he wants to do in his life. They've taught him that the sky is the limit.
Be strong, and live beyond the chair.