One Mile at a Time: Connor and Cayden Long

conner long

Connor Long made a simple choice that changed his and his younger brother Cayden’s life forever. Erin Kelly, a writer with cerebral palsy, comments on that choice, and the video that nearly brought NBA star LeBron James to tears.

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Everyone has a shadow. Everyone has something that they carry with them—and everyone has something to share.

A disability is something that can’t be shared like a cookie or passed along like a common cold, but as brothers Connor and Cayden Long prove, the shadow of doubt and emotional weight it brings can always be shared—and conquered together.

This video takes that idea to an entirely different level. It not only exemplifies the bond between two brothers, but also serves as a statement about the strength of the human spirit.

As stated in the video, Connor decided to enter himself and his younger brother Cayden, who has cerebral palsy, into a bicycle race on what looked to be an early summer’s day. He did it as a way to connect with his brother, not expecting anything more than an occasional smile from Cayden in return. However, it was a decision that would capture the hearts of millions across the country, as the two young brothers now compete in triathlons as a team.

“They were supposed to be biking and fishing together, but what Connor did for Cayden in that one little choice to do a race on a weekend, it changed them,” said Jenny Long, the boys’ mother.

I always write with the hope that the words I put on a page will inspire someone in some way—but that pales in comparison to this. The Long brothers’ story restores my faith in not only humanity, but also my belief that the line society has drawn between disabled and “normal” can and is being erased, inch by inch.

The Long brothers’ story restores my faith in not only humanity, but also my belief that the line society has drawn between disabled and “normal” can and is being erased, inch by inch.

It made me think about being the middle child with cerebral palsy in my family, and what that means to my two brothers. I pictured them in the video and asked myself, ‘What if the roles were reversed?’

What if I was the one with a sibling with a disability?’

I know for a fact I’d be riding my bike or doing everything in my power to make sure my brothers had the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else. I’d be trying to lead by Connor’s example and be the teacher he is—not so much to his brother, but rather to those in the world who label Cayden as mentally-challenged or “the ‘R’ word,” as Connor politely put it.

“When I see him smiling and laughing, he’s having a good time,” he said of his brother.

Connor followed that comment up with,

“If people could race with people who can’t walk or talk, it might open the eyes of [those] who don’t really care about it—and maybe the people that didn’t care in the past will care in the future and actually do it with somebody.”

As I’m watching this in the video, I’m blown away. Here’s a kid talking about his brother and saying things that most adults are thinking but don’t always say. I think the fact that Connor has willingly taken on the responsibility to be Cayden’s voice also says something about his maturity. As the video alludes to, he knows what he’s thinking and feeling, just by looking at the expression on his face.

The way he describes Cayden is beautiful in a way that those who either have a disability, or are helping to carry that load, get the opportunity to feel often enough. It’s a kind of beauty that, if you’re around someone with a disability long enough, comes with a unique bond.

Connor and Cayden’s brotherhood does just that and more. They’ve entered numerous bike races and have made national headlines. In 2012, they won the Sports Kids of the Year” contest in Sports Illustrated.

Consider this: if this video and this story had the power to bring an accomplished athlete like Kobe Bryant to near tears, imagine the boost it can give someone who’s simply hit a rough patch in life.

Ride on, boys!

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About Erin Kelly

Erin M. Kelly is a columnist, writer, and freelance editor with Cerebral Palsy who wants to be recognized for her work rather than her disability. She’s a 2009 graduate of Penn State Altoona, where she majored in Letters, Arts and Sciences. During her senior year, she was hired as a columnist for The Altoona Mirror, the daily newspaper in Altoona, PA. Her column entitled, “The View From Here,” runs monthly and addresses in a light-hearted, humorous manner the challenges she faces daily. Writing is her window to the world and gives her the opportunity to bring what’s inside out. Find Erin on Twitter @WriterWheels.

Comments

  1. kristin malavenda says:

    Great story….but that’s NBA star LeBron James….not Kobe Bryant.

  2. hugh kruzel says:

    Great story and video. Would be interesting to follow the boys and family over next decades to see what happens over time. The advocacy and support of a brother can be so important and in this case (and many) inspirational too.

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