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No anchor for his dreams

October 12, 2000

No anchor for his dreams



When Michael Smith, 12, bowls at Charles Town's Shenandoah Lanes, no one stops to gawk at the cumbersome metal contraption he uses to line up his ball. When he bowls 11 strikes and scores the day's highest average, no one is surprised.

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After seven seasons of bowling with Charles Town youth, the 158 members of the Youth Bowling League expect Michael to do well; he is, after all, one of the best in the league. He just bowls a little differently, with help from his dad, Rick.

Michael has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, but his condition has not anchored his hopes and dreams.

He is a fan of wrestling, baseball and football, and can often be found roaming the sidelines of practices and games for the Charles Town Panthers, his middle school football team.

Like other boys his age, he is adjusting to life in seventh grade, his first year at Charles Town Middle School. Since gym class hasn't started yet, his favorite time of day is lunch. He is part of a flag football club after school, and, not too long ago, his bowling team beat his older brother Ricky's team. Ricky is 14. Another brother, Billy, is 18.

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"It's kind of funny we beat him because he was on the 14-year-olds and we were younger," he says about beating his brother's team.

Michael's dad says there has never been a problem with Michael bowling in the youth league, and it gives his son something to do with a minimal amount of help from others.

"It gives him a sense of accomplishment, it's a sport he can participate in," Rick Smith says.

When he was in fifth grade, Michael wanted to perform during the holiday concert. He played a cymbal. He can't play football, but that doesn't mean the game is off limits. He might be a water boy for the team next year.

"There certainly are things he can't do, but just being out there is a big part of it right now, and he knows just as much about the game as anybody out there doing it," Rick Smith says. "He's not trying to weasel in anywhere, he just wants to do what he can do. He's not trying to make waves."

Michael's mom, Beth, wants people to see past her son's wheelchair and realize he has strengths, weaknesses and personality, just like anyone else.

She says he has a great sense of humor. He's had these bumper stickers on his wheelchair: "Pat my head and I'll break your legs" and "I don't feel like being stared at today."

"He just wants people to look at him like he's 12 and like he's Michael. He wants them to see past the wheelchair," Beth Smith says. "I'm hoping this shows everyday people that when they see my kid, he's not invisible. You can say 'hi.' He's just a kid."

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