Connor Fogal – Assisted Photography

Connor Fogal – Assisted Photography

Writing By Aida Cloutier

Connor Fogal doesn’t believe in the word “can’t.”  He was born on April 22, 1993 with Cerebral Palsy.  Cerebral Palsy is a movement disorder caused by damage to the brain before, during or soon after birth.  This disorder affects brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking.  The ability for people with Cerebral Palsy to communicate effectively is often impaired by problems with speech and also gestures usually used in communication. Connor’s case of Cerebral Palsy was unusually severe.  At his birth, Connor’s parents were told that he would never be able to walk or talk.  However, Connor began defeating the odds at a very young age.  First, he learned to use verbal and nonverbal signals to communicate.  At the age of four, he began to talk.  Today, although it may be difficult for strangers to understand him, Connor’s speech is fully functional and his mind is as sharp as a tack.

As a young child, Connor was fearless.  He didn’t let his disability stop him or even slow him down.  He first began to participate in sports at the age of six, when his father took him knee boarding in South Dakota.  He may have been frightened, but it was enough to whet his appetite to do more.  When he was seven, Connor became the poster child for Easter Seals.  On a visit to the Shriner’s Hospital to get new leg splints, Connor noticed a shiny, red bicycle.  Connor badgered his parents to buy him one of his own.  It didn’t take Conner long to learn to ride and soon he was able to ride his new bike in a city parade.

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Connor uses his iPad in his home. Photo by Alex Pompliano

When Connor was in third grade, his family moved to Reno.   He became very attached to his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Robertson, who ran marathons.  Connor insisted that he wanted to participate in marathons as well.  That year, his teacher’s husband put him in a jogger stroller and ran with him.  The pair came in fifth place.  They came in third the following year.  Two years later, Connor, using a walker, ran by himself in a fundraiser to earn money for his school’s physical education program.

When Connor was nine, his parents took him snow skiing for the first time.  He skied in a bi-ski with a trainer, learning how to lean to the left or right to turn the ski.  He loves skiing so much that he has not missed a season since then.  He enjoys Sky Tavern Ski Resort and managed to sell enough of his paintings (three thousand dollars worth) to purchases his own bi-ski.

Connor began riding horses at an early age.  When he was in sixth grade, he was selected by the Make a Wish Foundation to have one of his wishes granted.  His dream was to participate in the finals of the Las Vegas Rodeo.   The Reno Rodeo Foundation granted his wish.  As well as buying him a pair of custom riding boots and spurs, he was introduced at the rodeo and allowed to ride out into the arena.   His brothers, sisters, his riding instructor Sue, and Miss Reno Rodeo accompanied him.  It was one of the proudest moments of his young life.   The week after this he rode a horse in a fundraiser for over two hours, raising three thousand dollars to help feed the horses at his school.

Connor has been to Alaska several times with his family.  He went salmon fishing there with his uncle, who is a fishing guide.  One year, Connor and his family floated down the Kanai River in a raft.  While running the river, he was able to see all kinds of wildlife and even experienced a few rapids.  One particular day, he was able to participate in a “fly out” with all of his family.  A floatplane flew them out to a floating marsh area. There, he fished for Silver Salmon and watched bears catching fish in a nearby waterfall.

One day, Connor decided that he wanted to be an artist.  He began painting and with the help of his teacher, Mrs. Noury, he learned about mixing colors, blending colors, and color values.  In order to paint, Connor must wear a brace device that wraps around his head.  A paintbrush is attached to the device.  It takes great skill and difficulty for Connor to paint using only the movements of his head.  At first, Connor didn’t realize the value of his paintings; he simply gave them away as Christmas gifts.  Soon, family and friends were demanding more.  Now Connor sells copies of his paintings to purchase some of the things he needs and to allow him to help pay for some of the many activities that he enjoys.