||She naturally stands out simply by being 5 feet 11 inches tall and just
twelve years old. She's has a strong, graceful, confident presence on the basketball court
and a nice shooting touch. Swish...swish...nothing but net. Minutes later I marveled at
her fastpitch softball pitching form as she smoothly popped strike after strike into her
dad's mitt from 45 feet away. She and her dad, Jeff, a high school teacher and coach,
trade familiar abbreviated comments as the ball makes that sweet pop in the leather back
and forth between them.
pop "Looks good." "Uh, a
pop "Watch your release." "I
This is a Norman Rockwell scene played out
here as well as all over America as April brings its annual epidemic of good ol' baseball
fever. But there is something remarkable going on that even a careful observer would miss
if he wasn't told. That 12 year old kid is doing all this graceful, athletic stuff with an
artificial leg. Katie Holloway was born without a fibula in her right leg and, when she
was 20 months old, her right foot and ankle were amputated.
Katie now wears a specially made, light
weight prosthesis, a man-made replacement for her missing foot and ankle. It's fastened at
the knee to the remainder of her right leg which extends about 12 inches below her knee.
Her competitors often think she's wearing a knee brace and have no idea that Katie is
playing...and often "taking them to school", as the sports saying goes...with an
artificial leg. When I carefully ask about her earliest memories of her physical challenge
Katie's eyes get extra big and she breaks into a grin. "I'll show you my very first
artificial leg, " she says and hustles off to her room to find this rather unique
piece of nostalgia. "Sometimes kids would ask questions and tease me, " she
remembers, "but I would just tell them what (the prosthesis) was. Some would just
say, 'Oh...okay' and we'd keep playing, but other kids thought it was pretty weird and
didn't want to accept me."
Katie is now in her first year of middle
school and beginning her third sport of the year. Her favorite sport? "Whatever
season it is, that's my favorite," she says. For some that might be seen as the
politically correct answer but for Katie, she just loves to play. Volleyball in the fall,
both school and a club basketball teams in the winter, and fastpitch softball in the
spring keep her busy after school.
When I ask about her attitude, I'm thinking
this young lady must practice positive thinking. Her father, Jeff, says that she can be
pretty stubborn and that has turned into an attitude of athletic and emotional toughness.
Some circumstances can't be controlled, such as three recent operations on her
already-shortened right leg. Katie remembers, "I thought there were only going to be
two (operations) and I was going to have to catch up after those. Then it turned out to be
three. It set me back about 9 months but that meant I just had to work that much harder.
And I did."
Sometimes Katie gives herself pep talks.
"It might be a little harder for me to keep up in stuff like the mile run, but I just
keep telling myself to keep working hard, that I can do it, and not to quit." And
using her artificial leg as a reason to take it easy doesn't occur to this courageous,
tough-minded girl. She says without hesitation that it is her parents who instilled in her
a no limitations kind of attitude. Her dad explains, "That's just the way we've
always raised her to be. That she's the same as everyone else and that she can do anything
she sets her mind to."
I ask Katie if she has ever asked,
"Why me?" "Having a challenge like this has made me a stronger
person," she answers. Her mother, Jane, adds that she has grown up with a special
heart for the "underdog"...those who have a harder time for some reason. Katie
adds, "I know what it feels like to be teased and now it really hurts me to see other
kids being teased." These are pretty valuable feelings for someone who, not
surprisingly, wants to become a teacher and a coach someday.
You can imagine Katie Holloway's response when I ask if she
thinks people should feel sorry for her. I mean, she is missing her right foot and ankle,
you know. "No one should feel sorry for me," she answers. "This isn't a
disability, it's just a challenge. And challenge is just something that makes you
Reiman is the Editor-In-Chief of Incredible People. You can contact him at mark@IncrediblePeople.com