Tagged with: disability family life sports wheelchair
I grew up in east side Long Beach, where the drugs overflowed the streets and kept the gangs at war. The only refuge from the dangers of the outside world, were my family and sports. I am the first American born in my family. My mother and father escaped from the war in Cambodia and came to America with hopes of a better lifestyle for their kids. Little did they know, my brother, sister, and I would be exposed to drug abuse, gang violence, and discrimination early on in our lives. My brother and sister faced discrimination from their peers because they were born in Thailand and had heavy accents when they were younger. I remember my brother coming home with bruises and cuts from the local drug dealers that lived down the block. My sister was robbed on many occasions walking home from school with her friends and feared for her life every day. For me, I faced a different type of discrimination because not only was I a Cambodian-American but I was born with one leg. I always felt I was born lucky because I didn’t have to deal with any emotional trauma or accidents causing my “disability” I’ve never seen myself as being disabled rather “physically challenged” but, the other kids in my classes felt I was crippled and helpless. They teased me everyday, luckily I had another friend who also used a wheelchair. His name is Danny Maravilla and he still remains my best friend to this very day.
I was at the mall one day when I was about five years old and a blonde, blue-eyed woman stopped my parents and asked them if I was interested in playing sports. From that day forward I became a Ranch Renegade. Every week my parents would drive me from Long Beach to Downey and I would practice various sports at the Rancho de Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center. I was part of a new family, the Rancho family. My teammates became closer to me than my own brother and they didn’t judge me on how I looked or cared how I talked. To them, I was another athlete that was there to prove his worth. We played different sports, such as wheelchair tennis, hockey, football, and even “over the line.” My favorite sport was basketball and I continued to hone my skills and become more adept at it over the years. My friend Danny and I were both on the Rancho team and were very competitive with each other.Every day after school, we would always play one-on-one. As we pushed to the local parks, pushers (drug dealers) would try to flag us down and bribe us and even threaten us to do jobs for them. We would push away hard and fast with hopes that they wouldn’t shoot or send any guys after us. Rancho showed me my love for sports, but it also taught me the value of education and how I can use it to better myself and the world. Most importantly it gave me a way out of the hard knocked life.
My mother always told me that it was her dream that I make it out of the “concrete jungle” of Long Beach and use my skills in basketball as a tool to a better life. I made that dream come true when I received a full athletic scholarship to the University of Illinois. Basketball is my drug. With it I have reached my highs in life and helped others realize that anything is possible, no matter what background someone is from. I am addicted to the thrill of the game and the rush of sharing my passion for it with others. What is your favorite sport activity that you cannot do without?
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