The wheelchair was lifted up into the air high above the heads of a large group of stomping and dancing young and not so young people like this writer. I’ve seen it before but it never ceases to amaze. The occupant of the wheelchair is confined due to partial paralysis or some variation of that theme. This may be his condition or situation for life. The music is booming under a summertime moonlit California sky. The boys grab the chair and start twirling him around, fast and then faster.
Then they start spinning the chair while it’s held up high above their heads. The look on the face of the wheelchair confined young man is challenged by the limitations of mere words in this space. He is not just smiling but rather laughing and even whooping it up wildly. He’s laughing uncontrollably and wants to be twirled faster and if possible held higher up in the air.
There were about a dozen such episodes that took place within this one music filled hour last Thursday night. Eight days of these types of activities are planned. This is so much fun. G-d have mercy on us.
Here are some notes that I felt compelled to record after settling into the Sheraton Hotel near LAX in Los Angeles last week. This is our third trip or perhaps a better description would be our experience with the Kids of Courage folks.
There is always a remarkable dynamic at play at these KOC events. Perhaps there is an element present here that is reflective of life itself. There are serious health problems everywhere you turn here. But there is also a powerful parallel emotion of unbridled joy that is also evident wherever you happen to look. And I think that’s what makes this experience so interesting and even something that features a magnetic pull of sorts to it. It perhaps requires taking a step back to realize that this is simply a reflection to an exaggerated extent of life’s everyday sometimes brutal contradictions.
It’s difficult to describe or explain what these true kids so filled with courage have endured in their young lives and how the advent of KOC has changed and redefined what was once an existence that was confined to dealing with so many of the limitations and difficulties that life has handed them. Here at these events like the week in LA the main focus is breaking through to the other side of what a conventional kid’s life should really be.
One of the more outspoken young people—kind of an unofficial free association dominated rambling spokesman for KOC—a young man named Boris, spoke to the more than 400 people gathered here about what it meant for him, a kid confined to a wheelchair to have the opportunity to travel to LA. He said that before KOC came into being four years ago he was more or less defined by his limitations as one confined to a wheelchair. Now KOC has turned that all around or upside down in a sense if you will. Now Boris says he is more defined by the things he does rather than the things he cannot or does not do.
This year’s crowd was unprecedented in size. It was during the meals when just about everyone was gathered in the main ballroom of the Sheraton Gateways near LAX that one was able to absorb the scope and ambitiousness of this undertaking. The additional interesting thing about all this is the smoothness and agility with which the group gets around town.
More in this weeks 5TJT