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Youngster brings home gold from national meet

July 20, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG -- Still savoring his victories at the Dwarf Athletic Association of America National Games in New York City, 12-year-old Evan Eckenrode needed little encouragement to show off the gold medal, three silver medals and one bronze medal he won during the competition earlier this month.

"Last year, I just won a silver medal in volleyball," said Evan, of Smithsburg.

This year, the boy earned gold in soccer, silver in volleyball, basketball and softball throw, and bronze in the 40-meter dash.

Evan and his parents, Kerry and Jim Eckenrode, learned about the DAAA National Games two years ago. The annual competition was mentioned on The Learning Channel show, "Little People, Big World" and they began researching the organization.

"We went as a family this year," Kerry Eckenrode said. "Our 16-year-old son, Ryan, helped coach."

The experience was wonderful, she said.

"Everybody is there to lend support and have a good time. And everything is on a level playing field," she said.

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In addition to the sports events, there were seminars, presentations by doctors, and informational and educational programs. There also were dances and other activities.

In Brooklyn, the Eckenrodes spent time with a family from Pittsburgh they met last year at the Detroit games. Evan and the Pittsburgh family's son, Will, have formed a strong friendship that has been nurtured through family visits, texting and e-mails.

Plans are under way to get both boys to the 2010 games in Nashville, Tenn.

"Evan goes for checkups at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and so does Will," Kerry Eckenrode said. Sometimes, Will stays overnight at the Eckenrodes in Smithsburg, and there are gatherings in Pittsburgh several times a year.

Jim Eckenrode works for Wells Fargo and coaches at Catoctin High School in Frederick County, Md. He and Kerry often attend regional DAAA meets and actively support its activities.

"Jim suggested a new category for flag football and the DAAA agreed to it," Kerry Eckenrode said. "The NFL has donated jerseys and footballs for the Nashville games."

Kerry Eckenrode, who works at Millennium Financial Group in Middletown, Md., said her husband has met Amy Roloff, one of the stars of "Little People, Big World." Roloff serves as secretary of DAAA.

In 1957, well-known actor Billy Barty made a national public appeal for all little people in America to join him for a gathering in Reno, Nev. Barty and 20 other little people joined to form Little People of America.

Evan has played baseball since he was 6 years old. In September, he plans to play basketball as a seventh-grader at Smithsburg Middle School.

And in the future, "I want to go to Penn State University and be an engineer," Evan said.

A tax-exempt organization, DAAA activities are funded by donations. For more information, contact DAAA at 708 Gravenstein Highway North 118, Sebastopol, CA 95472.

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