Aaron VanKampen never thought he’d be able to run around and play sports like other kids his age.
Since the 18-year-old was a baby, he and his parents have heard the same phrase many times: “Aaron will never walk.” He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after his birth, and while the disorder hasn’t affected his brain, it has made moving and bending his legs a monumental task. But he’s proving he’s more than up to the challenge!
In 2007, his life changed forever when he became the first child in Grand Rapids, Michigan to receive a selective dorsal rhizotomy. The surgery involves cutting malfunctioning nerve roots in the spinal cord to reduce spastic muscle movement, and recovery isn’t easy.
Aaron endured a year of physical therapy, but his hard work and determination carried him through. And it was all worth it as soon as he took his first steps! His parents, Dan and Heather, said his positive attitude also played a huge role. “He never asked questions, ‘Why am I different,'” Dan said.
“He seems so much happier now about everything,” Heather added. “He just looks different now. He’s just glowing.”
Before the operation, Aaron struggled to keep up with his twin sister Lily. But by 2013, he was walking on his own and playing with her. In fact, a whole new world of possibilities had opened up, including Little League Baseball — and eventually Sparta Senior High School’s marching band!
Aaron has played his trumpet as a proud member of the band for three years, doing most of his work from where he sat on the sidelines. The walking was just too much for the teen… until recently!
These days, the senior is standing and walking for hours at a time. And when he does take breaks, it’s because his band director tells him he needs to. “Because I’m stubborn,” Aaron told FOX 17. “And because we have to learn sets, and I wanted to learn them.”
He continues to inspire so many people, especially his sweet mom! “It’s pretty special because everyone told us he wouldn’t be able to do it,” Heather said. “So it’s pretty neat to see him do it.”
Aaron is reminding all of us how much we can overcome when we set our minds to it! What a strong individual. Keep up the great work!
Watch Aaron perform in the video below, and share this story to encourage everyone to fight for what they love.
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