Boy with cerebral palsy skateboards for first time

João Vicente, a 7-year-old boy from Brazil, has always dreamed of skateboarding. He’s always been a happy, curious boy, who loves adrenaline, his mom, Lau Patron, told CBS News.

However, João endured health problems when he was just 20 months old. His body collapsed, and was later diagnosed with a rare autoimmune syndrome, which caused a severe stroke. After the stroke, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

João’s mom worked as a publicist, but had to quit her job in order to take care of her son. Patron noticed João’s skills improving every day, but when he asked to skateboard, she tried to deter him, thinking he would never be able to.

“I tried for a long time to replace the desire for skateboarding with other tools,” Patron told CBS News via email. “He rode on a tricycle…but that’s not what he wanted.”

Fortunately, there was someone else in Brazil who also wanted to make skateboarding accessible for people with disabilities. 

Physiotherapist Stevan Pinto and psychologist Daniel Paniagua started the Skate Anima project, with a mission of creating skateboard adaptations, so children with various types of disabilities can enjoy the sport, Patron said. “It is a very powerful and beautiful work. It is necessary,” she said,

The company built a “walker” that fits around João so he can hold on while someone pushes him on a skateboard. This particular tool was designed by Ricardo Oliveira, who is not only a skateboarder, but a father.

Oliveira’s daughter also has a disability, and he invented the walker so she could enjoy skateboarding with him. He sold the design to Skate Anima, which then created one for João, his mother said.

“I don’t know Ricardo, but I have a deep admiration for him,” Patron said. “It is a true network of good, brave and happy.”

Patron says her son now goes skateboarding with Skate Anima once a month. Video of him laughing while his mom pushes him in the skateboard walker has gone viral. The video made headlines in Brazil and then the U.S., which shocked Patron.

“Going viral is insane,” she told CBS News. “I never imagined that this could happen. I think it is so thrilling to see a boy like Joao skateboarding, happy, full of life, because we live in a sick society where we often forget the purpose of being here.”

Patron hopes João’s story helps spread an important message. “Understand that places that don’t welcome everyone are disabled, ideas are disabled, planning, education, design. Not people,” she said.

The mom is now working with Skate Anima to put together an inclusive skating championship that will allow all kids to participate.

“I love sports and I love my son, who loves to experience the world and life so damn much. He’s a boy like any other, and this story is about that,” the proud mom said. “May João’s smile wake up other people. Diversity is our strength.”

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