Devon, Average No More

by Tonna Curtis

July 17, 2005


Tonna Curtis is a 14-year-old student in Oregon. Her school district recently purchased a Rifton Pacer gait trainer for one of their students, and Tonna watched the transformation that took place. Her mother says, “the enormous pride and joy that it brought each of us is immeasurable, and now she is working towards purchasing him a Pacer for home.” Tonna has set up a donation fund to raise money for this purchase. She is also a teen coach at the local Special Olympics chapter, and is working on a Campfire project which involves community service.

Devon is not just an average boy. He was born with Cerebral Palsy but has become a role model for many of us. He has made those of us near him realize we are able to do more than we thought.

When Devon was a year old his parents heard the heart breaking news that a seizure could claim his life. A seizure did not take his life but his condition kept him in a wheelchair with limited mobility. Due to the lack of physical activities Devon's body was small and his muscles weak. This did not keep the light from his eyes or the glow of his smile from touching his family. It did however keep the rest of us unaware of his personality.

This young man is now a vibrant 4th grader in Central Oregon. He attends a specialized class for medically sensitive students. The staff is well trained in meeting the emotional, academic and physical needs of these students. Devon is fortunate that the ERC teacher is a former Olympian who places high value in physical activity. After working with the regional program’s physical therapist and educational assistants, a modified scooter was built to allow Devon to participate in Adaptive PE. Seeing the joy that this brought him, the school district decided to purchase a Rifton Pacer gait trainer, to further improve his mobility.

The Pacer did FAR more than meet his physical needs; it reached a part of him never seen before. Suddenly this quiet, immobile boy became active and interactive. Devon's first steps were unsure and small but after a few weeks they became steadier. He enjoyed this so much that he began working harder and harder. The goal was to have him walk to his 4th grade homeroom, which is 2 hallways away: a small task for many but a challenge for him.

Six months later, rather than being pushed around in a wheelchair he is now ‘running’ in his Pacer, down the hallways with his face lit up with joy. The students encourage his efforts by lining the halls and cheering and chanting his name. He can barely contain his enthusiasm as he barrels down the hall. Students and staff know to be aware as his steering is still unsteady, but there is no doubt about his purpose. This news of his efforts made the local newspaper's front page.

This new Pacer allows Devon to participate in Special Olympics. He loves practice, walking around the track with his grandparents and teen coaches at his side. He only needs gentle guidance to stay on the track and encouragement to make one more lap. We are hoping that he can participate in his first Special Olympic meet this June.

The Rifton Pacer has given Devon a chance to experience being a normal boy and has been called an inspiration by a classmate. The Pacer gave him the ability to be independent for the first time in his 11 years. His grandparents are grateful for the chance he has been given and believe that Devon makes them stronger and has re-energized their lives.

I have seen the change in Devon, he was always quiet and easily entertained but now he is more energetic and vocal. He likes to make noise which I like to think is his way of communicating to us. He becomes very animated and ‘talks’ when he knows it is time to get in the Pacer, his way of showing excitement. We haven't learned his language yet, but we are trying. No words can express the happiness that you can feel as he is babbling. Where once there was silence now there is laughter. I feel that Rifton has made that happiness possible for Devon. On Devon's behalf I want to thank you for your dedication and support that you offer to the world.

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