Article in Positive Impact Magazine "Celebrate Your Difference"
Too often physically challenged individuals are perceived as incomplete. As a result, they may be less accepted by society than those whose challenges are not as obvious. And it even starts when they are young. Children are frequently teased by other children; but for kids with physical disabilities, that teasing is usually more intense. Typically picked last for team sports and other group activities, they often feel different and alone.
Sarah Reinertsen was born with a condition called proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD) that left her with a deformed leg. She used a stiff leg brace until the age of 7 when she opted to have her leg amputated above the knee so she could take better advantage of prosthetic technology. She then decided to turn her physical challenge into an incredible and inspirational lifetime of success and has devoted her life to overcoming the challenge.
Because of her disability, coaches and teachers discouraged Sarah from engaging in regular play and activities that involved running. Even as a child, Sarah knew there was so much she could overcome and had a burning desire to make the world see her differently, but she didn’t have any similarly disabled role models. So she decided to become one herself. In 2005, she became the first woman with an artificial leg to complete the Hawaii Ironman triathlon, a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. She went on to become the first amputee to compete in the CBS reality TV show “The Amazing Race.”
Brian Lorenz, a longtime supporter of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, met Sarah during their annual fundraiser and was immediately moved by her drive and motivation. They became fast friends, and Brian grew to appreciate her amazing character and strength.
“I realized that Sarah was a very unique and special person,” Brian says. “She has incredible drive and motivation.”
Sarah and Brian talked often, and Brian began to wonder how different life is for people like Sarah – the stares, the comments, and the day-to-day physical challenges that she took in stride. What he discovered was that it wasn’t always easy and that many kids might not have the “Sarah-style” inner strength to overcome being treated differently.
Brian was so inspired by Sarah’s spirit that he began to brainstorm a way to change people’s internal and external perceptions of those with physical disabilities. His goal was to help society heal and accept people with differences. How could he help others better accept people with physical challenges? And, was there some way to increase the self-confidence of physically disabled individuals?
Brian founded Glabeebers, Inc., an organization whose mission is to be creative and have fun by combining thoughts that, at first glance, don’t seem to be compatible. The newest creation from Glabeebers is the SarahBear, a lovable teddy bear with a prosthetic leg device, created in honor of Sarah. A generous portion of the profits from the sale of SarahBears goes to the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
“We all are different in some way,” explains Brian. “It isn’t about our physical, mental or emotional capacity, it’s about love and acceptance – of others as well as ourselves.
A teddy bear with a prosthetic device is just as lovable as one without,” he continues. “Likewise a person with a prosthetic device is just as lovable as a person without one.”
Sarah is honored and wishes she’d had something like this as a child. “The SarahBear would have been an incredible gift to get in the hospital after my amputation,” she says. “To get a teddy bear that looked like me or had similar traits would have been incredible.”
The SarahBear is more than just a toy. It shows that it’s okay to be different and carries with it a strong message of love and acceptance.
To purchase your own SarahBear, please visit www.glabeebers.com
About the author: Kimber has spent her career working in marketing and traveling the world as an event planner. Her passions for volunteering and community service have led her to meet some incredible people. Becoming a freelance writer has given her a great vehicle to share the stories of the amazing people she has met along the way.