Never in all my time reporting have people wanted to ask more questions about a story I’m working on. Last week, I traveled to Ellensburg to meet Brenden Adams. Brenden isn’t your avergae 14-year old kid. In fact, he’s unique in all the world. Brenden is 7′4.6″ tall… but, his story is about much more than that.
I first heard about Brenden about a year ago. I didn’t hear many specifics, just that the world’s tallest kid lived in a small town in central Washington. But, it piqued my interest again this summer, when Guinness named Brenden – officially – the tallest kid in the world. I wanted to meet him – and Brended was up for it. I had no idea what to expect – and, I’m sure I’ll never meet another kid like Brenden.
First, some background: Brenden started out as an average-sized baby. He weighed 7 pounds & was 19 inches long. Doctors didn’t know it then, but Brenden was born with a chromosonal abnormality no other person in the world has likely ever had. His 12th chromosome flipped over and reattached on itself. What does that mean? I have no idea. But, in Brenden’s case, it caused him to grow at an incredible rate. He had all his teeth at four months. By the time he was 11, he was 6′8″ tall. Everything in life is harder for Brenden, from sitting in cars to finding socks to fit his size 22 feet.
When we drove down to meet Brenden, I had no idea what to expect. Interviewing 14-year old boys is hard – they love to give one-word answers and they are too cool for everything. With Brenden, I was pleasantly surprised. It helps that he’s been interviewed before (thanks, Oprah, for warming him up for us!) He gave great answers and spoke very candidly about all he’s been through. He also has a great attitude and outlook about everything. I don’t know how he stays so positive when every joint in his body aches and just being outside on a cold day is hard; still, he manages to be like any other 14-year old kid. But, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I just think about about his life and how it shouldn’t have to be so hard. I’m sad for what’s happened to him so far – I’m sad for the incredible challenges that lie ahead.
While Brenden has all these challenges, he’s also really lucky. He has a great family and great friends and a community that has supported him unconditionally. I asked his friend (who happens to be the star football player) if he’s had to stick up for Brenden a lot in their lives. He seemed surprised – he said no one has really ever picked on Brenden. The whole town knows this kid did nothing to deserve what life has handed to him. Being a kid is tough, but being supported by your entire community makes it a little bit easier.
We didn’t intend for our story to be about football, it just worked out that way. It just so happened we were going to shoot the story the day Brenden had his last football practice of the season. As someone who grew up playing sports, I know how important they are in kids’ lives. Brenden’s mom said she’s rarely seen her son cry, but when she told him she didn’t know if she’d let him play football, the tears started streaming down his face. He desperately wanted to do what millions of kids across the country get to do – to be part of a team and play the sport he loves. That’s why it was bittersweet for us to watch Brenden at practice that day. Needless to say, he stands out. His physical challenges make it impossible for him to even do stretches and warm-ups with his team. It was really cold that day and Brenden was in obvious pain. They practiced a play they drew up just for him – and, he could barely lumber out the five yards or so to catch a pass. He can’t straighten his arms out all the way and he dropped more passes than he caught. But, you can’t mistake the happiness on his face just to be on the team. And that determination and drive and positive outlook are what I hope you take away from Brenden’s story.
I think I’ll always remember it like this: I interviewed the world’s tallest kid and you know what I got out of it? Perspective.
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