Jr. Team Possible: Greyson Cage and His Family

Greyson Cage Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Greyson Cage Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

“This interview will not be like all of the others,” Nolan stated, as he and Caitlin prepared for their first double interview with their friends, Greyson and Emersynn Cage. He was right. This double interview turned into a family affair.

It all started when I sent the blog to Greyson and Emersynn’s mother, Rhonda, because she is a special education teacher, and I thought she would appreciate the stories being told. Excited by the stories, she read the blog aloud to her kids and to her surprise Greyson asked if he could be interviewed. Here’s the interesting piece… we had no idea that Greyson is a person with an exceptionality and for the first time he wanted to tell us his story.

So we arranged for a interview/playdate. Everyone met at our house and gathered around the table on the back porch. The girls on one side, and the boys on the other. Nolan and Caitlin sat smiling with their highlighted questions in front of them. Greyson and Emersynn sat posed and ready to handle anything.

Emersynn ready to play soccer. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Emersynn ready to play soccer. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What sports do you play?

Greyson: Basketball. Soccer.

Emersynn: Same. Basketball. Soccer.

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Greyson enjoying his favorite food! Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What are your favorite foods?

G: Lobster and crab.

Nolan and Caitlin let Greyson know that they too love lobster.

E: Crab legs, lobster and shepherd’s pie.

Emersynn shares that her aunt makes the best shepherd’s pie.

What books do you like to read?

G: Action and adventure. I like books by Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling and Brandon Mull.

E: Non-fiction animal books.

Caitlin smiles at Emersynn’s response. She is also a non-fiction animal book lover.

Captian America

Captain America Photo Credit: Disney Parks

What movies do you like to watch?

G: Action, action, action and adventure.

Nolan says with a questioning face, “You said action three times.” Greyson responds confidently, “I know. I just really like action movies.”

E: I like all movies except superhero movies.

Nolan stands up and shouts across the table, “Oh! We guessed that! We thought you would like any movies, BUT superhero movies because Caitlin hates anything I like.” Siblings.

Greyson thinking about teleportability. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Greyson thinking about teleportability. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What superpowers do you possess?

G: None. I wish I had superpowers. I wish I had invisibility, teleportability, flight and super speed.

Nolan reflects on Greyson’s response and then asks a follow up question, “Why would you need to fly if you could just teleport?” Greyson explains, “If I was battling someone, I would need to fly and not teleport.” Nolan nods in agreement.

E: My superpower is that I never give up.

Greyson's Awards Collection Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Greyson’s Awards Collection Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of?

G: My trophies from sports and having fun.

E: Having fun and doing my best.

What’s your ultimate sports goal?

G: Play in the NBA.

E: Playing in the World Cup.

Greyson playing basketball. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Greyson playing basketball. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What makes a good teammate?

E: They pass the ball.

G: Same. She’s right.

What makes a good coach?

G: They build up the players confidence by making them work hard.

E: When the coach is a good teacher, like my mom.

It should be noted that her mom, Rhonda, has many superpowers like being an excellent teacher and Emersynn’s basketball coach.

The Dynamic Duo Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

The Dynamic Duo Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What makes a good friend?

G: They are nice. They usually say, ‘What do you want to do?’ and they are nice to guests…like Nolan for example.

FYI: While Greyson is answering this question Nolan is pointing at himself repeatedly.

E: They are nice, respectful, and they play with you.

Playing the guitar is one of Greyson's many abilities. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Playing the guitar is one of Greyson’s many abilities. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

How would you define ability?

G: Something you can do or something you are trying to work hard at to make it one of our abilities.

E: Yeah, I agree.

What advice do you have for other young athletes?

G: Try hard and do your best.

E: And have fun.

Later, I followed up with their parents, Rhonda and Thomas, to ask them a few questions in hopes to gain a family perspective.

Can you tell me about Greyson’s exceptionalities?

Rhonda: Greyson was diagnosed with lipomyelomeningocele (spina bifida) at birth.  It is a neurological disorder. Greyson’s spine is tethered when it should be free flowing. His exceptionality affects his lower extremities (leg discrepancy, foot deformity, scoliosis, and gait abnormality). He also has neurogenic bladder and neurogenic bowel.

Working together Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Working together Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

As a family, what superpowers do you possess?

Rhonda: We believe that our superpowers are strength (of mind) and resilience. I would love to say patience but to be honest, I’m running low lately.

What is your family’s sports story?

Rhonda: Our sport story, hmm…I would say that our story begins with me. I started off playing basketball and fell in love with the game. I am a strong believer in team sports and what they have to offer in character development. Greyson has been to soccer games, baseball games, and basketball games since birth. He was BORN a fan! I coached my nephew for years and transitioned to Greyson’s coach. I never thought that Greyson couldn’t play sports, and most importantly he didn’t either. I just made sure that I was there to encourage him and support him as his coach and his mother.

The Cage kids are even models! Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

The Cage kids are even models! Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What advice do you have for other families who have a child or children with exceptionalities?

Rhonda: My advice would be to be your child’s strongest advocate and to encourage your child to advocate for him/herself. Learn as much as you can about his/her exceptionality, and talk about your feelings with family and friends. To truly view your child as exceptional, and not disabled.

Jr. Team Possible: Emilia Scovel

Introducing our newest Junior Team Possible member, Emilia Scovel. She was nominated by the amazingly kind and hard working two-time Paralympian, Cortney Jordan, who affectionately refers to Emilia as her “Mini-Me.”

Emilia and Cortney at a swim meet together. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia and Cortney at a swim meet together. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Since kids talk more honestly with kids, Emilia was interviewed by Nolan and Caitlin via FaceTime.  When starting the interview Nolan and Caitlin reassured Emilia that this wouldn’t be just a bunch of questions, but that they could talk about lots of stuff. However, it didn’t appear that Emilia needed any reassuring. She looked fashionable for an early Sunday morning interview. In a colorful outfit accessorized with a headband and lip gloss, she smiled confidently and spun around a bit in her parent’s office chair. She was ready.

How old are you? I’m eight years old.

Nolan (10) and Caitlin (7) are excited by this answer because Emilia is between their ages. Emilia is excited because her sister, Bella, is ten. There are shouts for Bella to join us, and we are introduced to Bella on the screen.

Do you have any pets? I have a dog named Barley. He likes to cuddle under blankets.

Then, Barley makes a brief appearance to say hello and wag his tail.

DSC_0059What sports do you play? I swim. I play basketball, just for fun, with my dad and sister because we have a hoop in the front yard, and I used to play tennis.

What foods do you like? I like pizza. Sometimes I have it with pepperoni, and sometimes I go with plain cheese. I like tacos, too.

Nolan expresses his appreciation for pepperoni pizza, while Caitlin explains how she prefers vegetables on her pizza.

What books do you like to read? I love to read fairy tales and books about dragons. I really like Rumpelstiltskin and Puss and Boots.

“Interesting…” Nolan replies. I guess our resident book guru is pleasantly surprised with Emilia’s choices.

Disney Pixar Inside Out Characters

Disney Pixar Inside Out Characters

What movies do you like to watch? I like to watch scary and romance movies. I really like Maleficent. I also like Back to the Future and Star Wars.

Caitlin jumps in to ask an important follow up question.

Did you see Inside Out? Yes! I really liked it.

Everyone is excited to talk about their favorite characters in the movie. Emilia’s favorite characters are Joy and Disgust.

What superpowers do you have? Fashion. Keeping my dog calm. Remembering facts. I am a history lover. Every day I come home from school and say, ‘Hey Mom, I learned a new fact,’ and then I start spitting out facts about history.

Emilia’s mom, Gigi, explains further that Emilia can even remember all sorts of family events including who was there and what they were wearing. Emilia agrees and states that she even remembers times from when they lived in Malaysia. This comment solicits a surprised reaction and great interest from Nolan and Caitlin.

Emilia and her sister, Isabella, traveling in New Zealand. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia and her sister, Isabella, traveling in New Zealand. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia shares that for three and a half years from when she was 3 to 6 years-old, she lived with her family in Malaysia and traveled to many countries in the area including Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore.

Nolan asks if she ever saw someone play a didgeridoo. Emilia thinks about it and says, “No, but I did get to pet a kangaroo and koala.” Caitlin, our resident animal lover, is very envious.

Emilia proudly holds up her Coaches Award. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia proudly holds up her Coaches Award. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? At my last meet for the summer, I got second place in breaststroke. This year I also got the Coaches Award for the Makos (her club team). The Coaches Award is when all the coaches vote for the swimmer who is the best listener and who tries very hard.

“Very impressive!” replies Nolan with admiration. Emilia smiles.

What are your ultimate sports goals? I want to swim in another Paralympic meet. I want to grow up to be like Cortney.

Nolan smiles and says, “That’s a good goal.”  Caitlin adds, “I was guessing you would say something about Cortney.”

Why do you look up to Cortney? I look up to her because she has the same disability as me. We have a lot in common, and I just want to grow up to be like her.

Nolan whispers to me, “Can I tell her about Nick?” I encourage him to share Nick’s sports story.

“We have a cousin, Nick Springer, and he was in the Paralympics. He played wheelchair rugby.”

Caitlin interrupts, “He still does.”

“Well, he does still play wheelchair rugby, but in 2008 he won a gold in Beijing.” Nolan then explains how Nick contracted meningococcal meningitis at the age 14 and to save his life the doctors had to amputate his arms below the elbows and his legs above his knees. Nolan concludes, “He is amazing and he can do anything. He can even use chopsticks.”

Emilia then proudly shares how one of Cortney’s friend is also missing portions of his limbs and the amazing things he can do. She also explains how her young friend, Gracie, has gone through multiple operations to lengthen one of her legs. Gracie is only five years-old, but Emilia plans to teach her how to swim. We all wonder if Gracie will be Emilia’s “mini-me”, and if Nolan and Caitlin will get to interview her in a few years.

What makes a good teammate? Cheering each other on and teamwork like saying, ‘Yeah, let’s do that!’

What makes a good coach? What makes a good coach is someone who knows how to make the team believe in each other and makes the team do their best.

Emilia snowboarding at Wintergreen Resort. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia snowboarding at Wintergreen Resort. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

How do you define ability? Ability means you can mostly do anything, and you don’t need help.

“Wow!” replies Nolan.

Gigi, Emilia’s mom, elaborates by explaining that they were worried about Emilia when they were preparing to live in Malaysia. They did not know how her disability would impact her life overseas or how they would be able to meet her needs. However, Emilia was so strong nothing stopped her including a broken left foot. In Cambodia, she climbed all the steps to the temples they visited and never complained. “Nothing stops this kid,” her mom proudly states, “It is hard to tell her ‘no’.”

Emilia then shows us the braces for her left leg. She has had three braces. She was fitted with her first brace when she was a toddler, and it went up to her knee. Her second brace covered her calf and had a hinge at the ankle to allow for more movement. She explains that she got to pick out “all sorts of crazy colors” with her sister to make her brace totally unique. The third brace that she currently uses is smaller and goes just above her ankle. Nolan shares that his cousin, Stephen, has cerebral palsy and he wears a very similar brace on his right leg. Emilia smiles and adds that she and Cortney both have left sides that work differently. 

What advice do you have for other young athletes? Try your best and never give up and have fun.

“I love those words!” exclaims Caitlin.

“Yeah, words of wisdom by Emilia!” declares Nolan, “She is great at this!”

Nolan and Caitlin suggest to Emilia that she should do more interviews. We are all confident that there will be many more interviews and awards in the future for Emilia.

Post Rio Interview with Nolan and Caitlin

Nolan, Rio and Caitlin showing off Rio's legs. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Nolan, Rio and Caitlin showing off Rio’s legs. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

What was your favorite part of your visit with Rio?

Nolan: Wait, you can’t interview us. We’re not Paralympians.

I know. But I was just wondering, what was your favorite part about your visit with Rio?

Caitlin and Jen teaching Rio to boogie board in the waves of Ocean Park, Maine. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Caitlin and Jen teaching Rio to boogie board in the waves of Ocean Park, Maine. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Caitlin: My favorite part was going to the beach. I liked showing Rio how to boogie board.

Nolan: I had so many favorite parts. It is really hard to decide. I think…the whole day. Yeah, the whole day.

What surprised you about the visit?

Caitlin: I was surprised at how good Rio was at boogie boarding. Usually, kids don’t get it right away like he did.

Nolan: I was surprised when Rio climbed up the cliffs at the river with his water leg on. I mean that is really hard because it doesn’t bend at the knee. There is no hinge. But then, we would slide down the cliffs on our boogie boards into the water. It was a fun time.

What did you learn from your day together?

Caitlin, Rio and Nolan showing off the personalize copy of Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Thompson. One person can change the world.

Caitlin, Rio and Nolan showing off the personalize copy of Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Thompson. One person can change the world.

Caitlin: I learned that people with disabilities can do everything that kids without disabilities can do.

Nolan: If you have something that is like a disability, you can still do lots of stuff. Even though, it might be a little hard.

What would you like to do when you get to meet up with Rio again?

Caitlin: Probably, rock climbing.

Nolan:  I don’t know what I would do. There are so many great things to do with Rio, and I hope we see him again soon.

Caitlin: Paragliding would be really fun, too.

Do you have any other comments?

Caitlin: The day with Rio was really fun. I wished he lived in the US.

Nolan: I know Rio’s mom is going to read this interview. So… I can’t wait to see him again!

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The tweet that started a friendship across the Atlantic. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

The day with Rio and his parents, Juliette and Trevor, was truly remarkable. It was like experiencing the mission of Team Possible firsthand. It is incredible to think that it all started from a simple tweet of Rio holding a Lego figurine.

One special moment for me was when Juliette told me Rio called me “Coach,” and insisted that I help him work on his new boogie boarding skills. Although it was tough to say good-bye to our new boogie boarding buddy, I loved the big squeeze-you-tight hugs we all received from Rio at the end. Keep believing in the possible! #RunRioRun #BoogieRioBoogie

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Rio Woolf (Part 2)- The False Start & New Leg

8:00 a.m. US/ 1:00 p.m. UK

Now dressed, Nolan sits down to eat his breakfast. He takes a bite of his blueberry muffin. “Mom, what do you think Rio is doing right now? I bet he is playing a lot of sports…It’s not fair. He’s had like 3 hours to play, and I just got up.”

8:30 a.m. US/ 1:30 p.m. UK

IMG_0774Nolan and Caitlin review their interview questions. They divide them equally. They each get to ask six questions.Nolan highlights his questions in yellow. Caitlin highlights her questions in green. To practice they FaceTime their dad from the porch to the living room and ask him the interview questions. Everything goes smoothly.

9:00 a.m. US/ 2:00 p.m. UK

I dial the Woolf family in London.

9:02 a.m. US/ 2:02 p.m. UK

“I knew we would have technical difficulty,” Nolan states as I bumble over how to make an international call via FaceTime. I struggle to make it all work.

“Let me try it again,” I say as I hold my breathe and push the video icon. We wait as we imagine the familiar triple beep sound making it’s way across the Atlantic, and then Juliette, Rio’s mom, appears on the screen.

9:05 a.m. US/ 2:05 p.m. UK

“Hello!” everyone shouts and waves at once, except Rio. He’s missing. 

“I’m sorry,” Juliette says. “Rio is in the bathroom. Bad timing.” 

In a flash, Rio appears “I have three legs,” he explains as he attempts to hold his three prosthetic legs up to the screen (his “bendy leg” or knee-jointed day leg, his running blade for sports, and his water leg for swimming in the pool and ocean).IMG_1596
He immediately starts talking about his brand new water leg. He carefully turns it around in front of the screen. It is covered in colorful decals. Rio explains each picture. First, he shows us the logo from the Rio 2 movie. Next, he turns his leg to display his own personal logo Run Rio Run, the Brazilian flag, the 2016 Paralympic Games and two pictures of his favorite dolphin, Winter from Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Nolan and Caitlin look in awe, even a bit envious. Rio’s water leg marks a major milestone for him because it is for his upcoming trip to the United States where he will attend Camp No Limits in Maine and then travel to Florida to meet the famous dolphin, Winter, who uses a prosthetic tail.

“Rio wants to show you how he puts his leg on,” Juliette adds while Rio moves around on his bed in the background.

“Hello!” Rio smiles as he waves his residual limb at the screen. Nolan, Caitlin and Rio chuckle. He then takes them through all the steps to putting on his water leg. For a moment the dads poke their heads on to the screens to say “hello.” Rio finishes putting on his leg, and then everyone is ready to start the “formal” interview.

Jr. Team Possible: Rio Woolf (Part 1)- The Anticipation

Sunday, June 14

7:00 a.m. US/ 12 p.m. UK

Caitlin arrives in the kitchen unusually early dressed and ready for the day. She is wearing her new pink t-shirt that reads, “Girls can change the world.” IMG_0770

“Good morning,Cait…” I start to say when she interrupts me. She has more important things on her mind this morning.

“Mom,” she says as she looks down at her t-shirt. “I think they should make shirts that say, ‘Future Paralympians can change the world’.”

“I agree, Caitlin. We should make shirts that say…” she interrupts me again.

“Mom, they should make shirts that say, ‘Paralympians can change the world’, too.”

7:30 a.m. US/ 12:30 p.m. UK

Nolan bounds into the kitchen still in his pajamas. “I can’t believe it! Today, I get to interview a future Paralympian.”