When Lucas Brady is among friends, he’s the happiest. The 13-year-old can run with the best of them; last fall he even helped his AYSO soccer team take the “King of the Hill” title.
“I like to play basketball and soccer, all kinds of sports,” he said. “It’s fun and it helps your body get stronger.”
Like other kids his age, Lucas went away to summer camp. But this particular trip to the Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp, held July 19 to 23, gave him the chance to be around peers with the same differences. The Palos Verdes Estates resident was born with a partially formed leg, underwent a revision below-the-knee amputation and now wears a prosthetic.
While at the Amputee Coalition’s camp in Clarksville, Ohio, Lucas had the opportunity to try various activities, including swimming, zip lining, canoeing, archery and more. The camp, which Lucas earned a scholarship to attend, increases participants’ self-confidence and self-esteem through a traditional and supportive experience, according to its website.
“He’s very strong. He’s very confident,” Linda Brady said of her son. “But I’m hoping to even empower him more with seeing the community of amputees, the diversity, the things that other kids have overcome. … I guess it’s just a strength that he can do anything, and [I hope] if there’s ever that voice in the back of his head that says, ‘I can’t,’ that somehow that goes away.”
While at the youth camp, Lucas reunited with Zachary Lux, of Green Bay, Wis., his best friend who was adopted from the same orphanage in Harbin, China, and has an amputated leg, too.
“I’m really excited,” Lucas said, adding that he looked forward to being able to “talk to new friends and see Zach. … He is nice and he has the same leg like me. He’s strong — brave.”
But Zach isn’t the only courageous one. What makes Lucas remarkable is his resilience in the face of his limitations, whether physical or linguistic. Coming from the Far East to Palos Verdes two years ago presented its share of obstacles.
“There was a very big
language barrier,” said Linda, who adopted her daughter, Camilla, from the same Social Welfare Institute in 2006 when she was just 20 months old. “He had some English at school [in China], but it was a basic knowledge of the alphabet. For quite a long time it was a lot of pantomime. I was lucky that a teacher at the high school came to our home a couple times so I could actually really talk with him and find out how he was doing.
“There were children at [Lucas’] school that did speak Chinese. It was a nice melting-pot feeling,” she added. “He kind of radiates a big confidence. Even from day one when he didn’t speak English, he’d say hi to people and just go play, without there having to be language.”
Lucas plans to keep the momentum of activities going when he returns from Ohio by participating in basketball camps at Palos Verdes High School. Though he has aspirations of being a chef, doctor or policeman in the future, the sixth-grader has his sights on attending Palos Verdes Intermediate School in the fall.
The new environment will present a new challenge, but probably not as difficult as the hurdle Lucas recently overcame with sharing his limb difference with his classmates. He kept that part of himself private until March, when he had to go to school without the prosthetic after surgery.
“There were a couple incidences where things happened and the leg fell off, and that was kind of scary,” Linda said. “A couple kids saw it but no one did anything negative, which was amazing to me — amazing in the sense that there are these great kids, because you would be startled if you didn’t know and all of a sudden that happened.”
Linda had a conversation with Lucas’ class about his leg, and it came as a relief that his limb difference was a non-issue for the other students.
“The kids were all great with it,” she said. “They got to see how agile [Lucas] was on the crutches. After a while, he was just out there hopping and playing basketball with the one leg. … I hope that was a neat experience for them.”
When asked if having a limb difference is difficult, Lucas, with is infectious positive spirit, replied, “No, it’s not that hard. It just takes practice.”
Ashley Ratcliff is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to the News.