Pine Tree student walks after decade in wheelchair
By by Reese Gordon firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov. 5, 2013 at 11 p.m.
A Pine Tree student's perseverance was the real highlight of Tuesday's seventh-grade Pirate football game.
Despite being confined to a wheelchair for 10 years after an auto wreck, Pine Tree Junior High School student Tyler Bain, 13, said he made the decision a month ago that he would walk onto the field before the seventh-grade A team's final home game of the season.
It was the first time he's walked in front of an audience.
Tyler's coach and Texas history teacher, Paul Ellsworth, said the teen approached him with the idea.
Ellsworth named Tyler honorary team captain before Tuesday's game against Mount Pleasant.
"He always pumps the kids up," Ellsworth said, adding that Tyler is the seventh-grade teams' manager. "He's an inspiration to everybody that meets him. He's willing to do anything and go above and beyond."
Tyler said that none of his classmates on the team knew of his plans, and he walked to midfield of Pirate Stadium amid a roar of cheers from friends, family and teammates.
"I'm happy that I finally got to show what I can do," Tyler said. "Even though I'm in a wheelchair, don't go by what I look like. Go by what I have inside, a heart."
Tyler was assisted to midfield by a walker guided by his grandfather, Bob Gillam, and teaching aide, April Smith.
Smith, assigned to be Tyler's assistant when he was in the first grade, said his ability to function on his own has steadily improved over the years.
"His attitude has been the same, but he has grown so much," she said. "When I first got him in first grade, I had to sit behind him and help him write and help feed him. Now he's doing all that on his own, and he has just grown so much."
Despite never playing football, Gillam said his grandson's passion for the game has never waned.
"He loves football," Gillam said. "He watches it all the time."
Tyler, surrounded by members of the Pirates, led the team in pregame chants Tuesday night.
Tyler's struggle and constant perseverance, Ellsworth said, has helped him see past the outward appearances of others.
"Tyler has gotten me to be a better man," he said. "He's helped me look past peoples' disabilities and look at who they are as a person. He's touched me in ways I haven't been touched in a long time."
Tyler said he has aspirations of walking without help from anybody or anything and will undergo a tendon-reduction surgery this Thanksgiving in Houston. He said the surgery is needed to straighten out his legs.
"(Doctors) believe in me strongly that I can do that if I really want," he said. " They said if I have that 'want to' in me that I will go after it."