“He knows he’s not athletic, so he holds back. He’s reluctant to try. But at PEER, he’s free to be himself. He can just be a kid without being different.” – Michael, Joshua’s father
When Joshua watched The Greatest Showman, the tears streamed down his cheeks. His mom believes he felt a connection with the outsiders in the movie because he feels different too.
Maybe the tears came because he was being bullied at school. A secret that only he and his tormentors knew.
Thank goodness Josh has you. With your support, he has found a safe place, where he is free to be himself.
Josh walks with a limp and fatigues easily. The boys at school tease him because he can’t keep up. They taunt him as they lap him in gym class, whispering that he’s a baby and he’s lazy.
None of this is Josh’s fault. But he lives with the painful reality of it every day. It is the fallout of cancer treatments he received when he was five.
One day, last September, Josh was having an especially bad day. It was the first day of PEER (Pediatric Cancer Patients and Survivors Engaging in Exercise for Recovery) and Josh was refusing to go. With energetic coaxing from his parents, he reluctantly agreed to go. He had the time of his life.
“After his first session, he came out of the gym with the biggest grin on his face,” his mother Victoria says. “I wish we could have done PEER years ago. It’s the best thing ever for Josh.”
When asked if he wanted to go to PEER again, Josh answered with a resounding, “Yes! They’re just like me there.”
PEER helps children affected by cancer to rebuild their fundamental movement skills (e.g., running, jumping, catching and throwing), while also building muscle strength, aerobic capacity, flexibility and balance.
With your support, last September, we were able to expand our PEER program with more weekly sessions. This enabled Josh to go for the first time.
Josh is like many childhood cancer survivors, who fall behind their peers in motor development because invasive medical procedures, treatment-related isolation and permanent side effects make regular activity difficult.
“I know Josh needs to be challenged,” his father Michael says. “But his teachers need to recognize that he has limits and they’re different limits than his peers. PEER is a safe place where Josh can be challenged and have fun.”
Josh is still terrified of his tormentors and only recently told his parents about the teasing – after months of sitting alone at lunchtime and on the sidelines at recess.
His parents still don’t know for sure that the bullying has stopped, even though they’ve had a serious sit-down with his teachers. Next year, he’s going to a different school.
Thanks to you, Josh has PEER to help him through this painful time.
“He’s a different kid at PEER,” his father says. “He walks in like he owns the place. Even if he is sitting out in gym class, at least he has PEER every week.”