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Going the Distance

Pediatric Surgeon and 4-year-old Team Up to Raise Awareness for Adaptive Sports


The annual Two Cities Marathon attracted thousands of contestants, but this year’s race on Nov. 4 included an especially energetic 4-year-old eager to “go the distance.”

Dr. Gorra and RafaelRafael Reyes, an outpatient at Children’s Hospital Central California diagnosed with cerebral palsy spastic diplegia, was the event’s first “adaptive” participant in the 2012 Fresno Half Marathon. Dr. Adam Gorra, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital and marathon runner, pushed Rafael seated comfortably in his child-size, 27-pound wheelchair, for the entire 13.1-mile course. Giggling and smiling the whole way, Rafael finished with Dr. Gorra in 2 hours and 57 minutes.

Dr. Gorra also recruited Dr. Patricia Clerkin, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children’s, and her husband, William Clerkin, to join his and Rafael’s team. Rafael’s aunts Anita Mendoza and Adrianna Amaro joined the fun.

“Rafael was so excited!” said Emanuel Reyes, Rafael’s dad. “He uses a walker most of the time and is very active so he enjoyed this. His dream is to be a wheelchair racer some day.”

“We had an absolute blast – memories for a lifetime!” said Dr. Gorra.

Adaptive sports program adds ice and sled hockey

Rafael takes part in various sporting endeavors, and will attend the Children’s Hospital Adaptive Sports Program rock climbing activity on Nov. 10 at the MetalMark fitness facility in Fresno.

Team with RafaelThe only one of its kind in the region, Children’s adaptive sports program provides free recreational and athletic experiences for those with disabilities up to age 21. From water and snow skiing, to track and field, rock climbing, tennis, golf, kayaking and power soccer, the program draws upon the area’s natural resources and athletic facilities to provide participants a fun experience while boosting their health and confidence. Children with conditions ranging from cerebral palsy to spinal cord injuries learn through hard work and determination they can participate in athletics and achieve their goals.

On Nov. 19, the program will begin offering ice and sled hockey – which Rafael also looks forward to experiencing – at the new ice rink at the Fulton Mall in downtown Fresno.

Team with Rafael“The adaptive sports program is a jewel of this Hospital,” said Dr. Gorra, who is also a hockey coach. “It helps children who have many obstacles to maximize their potential while building awareness and support. Ultimately, we’d like to see more adaptive athletes in the Two Cities Marathon and we’re excited to bring ice hockey and sled hockey to this area.”

“We admire Rafael’s courage and determination,” said Dr. Jennifer Crocker, medical director, Children’s Hospital pediatric rehabilitation center, who leads the adaptive sports program. “And we’re very appreciative of Dr. Gorra’s efforts to help us raise awareness about adaptive sports, and add ice and sled hockey to our growing program.”

An inspiration to others

Born extremely premature at 25 weeks weighing just under 2 pounds, Rafael spent the first four months of his life receiving the highest level of Dr. Gorra and Rafaelcare available in the Central Valley at Children’s Hospital’s regional level III neonatal intensive care unit. He continues to receive specialized treatment from our pediatric specialists, including those in neurology, pulmonology, rehabilitation, endocrinology, speech, complex primary care, gastroenterology and more.

Cerebral palsy affects motor skills development between the brain and certain nerves and muscles in the body. It usually develops in utero or at infancy. Spastic diplegia, known as Little’s Disease, is the most common type of cerebral palsy occurring in nearly 70 percent of all related cases. Spastic diplegia primarily affects the muscles of the lower body, including the legs, hips and pelvis.

Team with Rafael“The care Rafael has received at Children’s Hospital has been very helpful,” said Reyes. “My wife, Carla, and I have seen Rafael improve physically and cognitively. We hope that what Rafael, Dr. Gorra, Dr. Crocker and Children’s Hospital are doing will be inspiring for people who don’t know medical help is out there. Many kids with special needs can also do ‘normal’ things, like sports. They can still lead active, happy lives.”

For more information on the Children’s Hospital Adaptive Sports Program, or to donate funds, equipment or expertise to the program, contact the Children’s Hospital Foundation at (559) 353-7100, or go to the Adaptive Sports Web site.    

For more information on the new ice rink at Fulton Mall open Nov. 8 through Jan. 13, 2013, go to the Downtown Fresno Web site.