Sara McFadden grew up looking a little different than the other kids in her school.
The Irish teen was born with albinism and nystagmus, a condition that causes involuntary eye movements that severely impair her vision. With her stark white hair and skin, she was often the target of bullies growing up.
Sara’s mother Sandra told us that she’s been hearing all of the things that her daughter would not be capable of accomplishing since the minute she was born. Now, many years later, she’s gratified to see that Sara has not just achieved more than those naysayers ever thought she could; she’s thriving and blazing trails like no one else could!
“The negativity when she was born was overwhelming,” Sandra said. “All we heard about was all the things she would never be able to do and the tough life she had ahead of her. We made the decision in the hospital there and then that nothing was ever going to stop her. AND NOTHING HAS.”
Defying the odds, Sara went to a mainstream school. Her teachers worked with her to help her keep up with the other students, and she now has hopes of becoming a gym teacher. Most incredibly, Sara is even participating in her family’s biggest passion: Irish tarmac rallying.
Tarmac rallying is car racing, but not on a race track. Instead, souped-up automobiles travel on regular roads at a very high speed. It’s an exhilarating sport for true thrill-seekers, and Sara couldn’t love it more.
Since Sara’s eyesight is so impaired that she can never hold a driver’s license, she has instead found a way to participate in her family’s pastime by becoming a navigator. With her father Keith behind the wheel, Sara carefully and efficiently lets him know what’s on the course ahead.
Sara is Ireland’s first visually impaired person to ever become a tarmac rally navigator!
Even though she’s already making history, she’s still subject to the sort of nasty remarks and bullying that are all too common in our world. In a post Sandra wrote for Sara’s Facebook page, the proud mother told a story of how a group of young men had called Sara “Casper” on a recent family trip.
“I was shocked and horrified, to be honest,” Sandra wrote. “We have raised Sara to embrace her condition and she is the strongest and most independent young lady I know.”
Instead of being upset, Sara handled the insult with grace. Moreover, she reclaimed the name as her own, taking the power away from the bullies and giving it back to herself, where it belongs.
Sara though[t] the ‘Casper’ reference was utterly hilarious and original, and embraced it in a manner that makes my chest bust with pride. Casper now has a place of honor on the back bootlid, it shows her strength to all the bullies out there.
There’s no limit to what Sara can accomplish, and she’s not about to let some unkind words get her down. Her strength of character is an inspiration to all who meet her, and especially to her proud mom.
She is becoming an inspiration for many with disabilities. We are not encouraging any children to become involved in rallying, it’s just that this has always been our family sport. What she is trying to get out there is, that your disability does not define you… set your dreams and goals and achieve them.
Great advice, Sandra. We are ALL more than our disabilities!
Next up, Sara is headed for a big rally in Sligo, Ireland. We are all rooting for you, girl!
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This story was submitted by Sandra McFadden. You can share your story via our online form here.