Imagine having stiff muscles, difficulty gripping things, and struggling to even tie your own shoes. Now, imagine being only five-years-old and thinking you will grow out of it – only to find out later you won’t.
Sam Keane, 19, was diagnosed with spastic triplegia cerebral palsy when he was just a child. His father was concerned his son wouldn’t be able to finish high school.
Keane is now a second-year Sports Management student at Durham College. He also works as the assistant equipment manager for the UOIT women’s hockey team – a job he secured himself after emailing head coach Justin Caruana last year.
“He responded by inviting me to the Campus Ice Centre where our team plays home games for an in-person meeting and to show me around the team’s dressing room and facilities,” he says. “Next thing I knew, I became the assistant equipment manager, and have been since.”
When Keane was still young, his family moved to Oshawa to be close to Grandview Children’s Centre, which offers services to about 6,000 children with physical, communication and developmental needs in Durham Region. He says it took “countless” surgeries as well as physiotherapy and occupational therapy to improve his condition.
“The staff has helped me tremendously to improve physically and mentally,” says Keane, “always being there for me, and I am forever grateful to them.”
While he considers the state of his condition “mild” in comparison to others, he still faces struggles every day.
“I have challenges with daily things like tying shoes, cutting food, stuff like that, because my left hand is quite effected from the CP,” he says. “I just have to respect that fate but never let it get me down or stop me.”
Today, Keane is a member of the youth advisory committee at Grandview where he helps to plan community events. He also speaks on behalf of the centre to help raise awareness.
Through his work with Grandview, Keane met one of his heroes, NHL player James Neal from Whitby who currently plays for the Calgary Flames.
“I did a speech for Grandview that day,” he says. “He was there, him and I struck up a conversation and ended up becoming friends – and still are to this day.”
Keane says his friendship with Neal has led the two to be supportive of one another. He says he sends regular “good luck” messages to Neal.
Keane’s initiatives haven’t slowed down. He was recently contacted by Grandview Kids Foundation to do a promotional video focusing on his life, struggles, and success.
His father provided an emotional voice-over to the video that recently went live on Twitter.
“I was ecstatic. I jumped at the opportunity, as it was another opportunity for me to give back to and help raise awareness for an organization that has done and continues to do so much for my family and me,” he says.
Keane says his next goal is to raise money for Grandview by selling T-shirts as a part of a class project. They will be sold in the South Wing hall by the Computer Commons at the Oshawa Campus on Dec. 3 for $15.
“I just have to take things one day at a time and focus on doing what I need to do to maintain a high quality of life and be a strong contributor to Canadian society,” he says. “I can not get hit and stay down, I have to get back up and hit life back harder than it hit me and vault over the wall of adversity.”