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It was real all right, as Sadie -- a ninth-grader from West Burke, Vt. -- was recognized on the field prior to Game 3 of the World Series on Friday for her winning essay in the "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life" contest.
The annual contest invites students in fourth through ninth grade to submit an essay describing their experiences in overcoming barriers or obstacles they have faced, or are still facing, in their lives by using the values demonstrated by Jackie Robinson as he broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947. These values are citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence and teamwork.
Sadie, 14, has cerebral palsy, a neurological movement disorder that hinders her mobility and motor skills.
As she wrote in her winning essay, even putting on her shoes is a challenge.
"What most people don't realize is this. An average day of school is a tremendous drain on my body and my mind," Sadie's essay reads. "In school, I feel like a weed among the roses, with the sickening sound of my feet dragging against the pavement."
So when her eighth-grade teacher told her this spring that the class would be writing essays to submit to the Breaking Barriers essay contest, Sadie didn't have to think twice about what her subject would be.
After a week of studying Jackie Robinson's story in class, she sat down to write her contest submission. Because it's difficult for her to type, Sadie typically uses voice-dictation software to compose her work, but at her mom's suggestion, she decided to type this essay herself. Her back on a heating pad to combat one of the muscle spasms she regularly faces, Sadie set to work.
Five hours and one bathroom break later, she'd written her final words.
"Like Jackie, I am a victim of assumptions," she typed, "but I won't let that break my spirit. I know if I stay true to my values of courage and determination I can go just as far as Jackie Robinson."
Those words would net her one of two Breaking Barriers grand prizes awarded, plus a school visit from Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter and an author who serves as an educational consultant for MLB.
During the school-wide assembly held to commemorate Robinson's visit and honor Sadie, Robinson was struck by Sadie's candor in reading her winning essay aloud.
"It was emotional because she's speaking to her peers, talking about something very personal, and that takes a lot of strength," Robinson said. "I was impressed with her ability to do that, to stand in front of her peers and lay herself bare like that."
For her part, Sadie, an aspiring motivational speaker and actress who'll be playing the lead in her school's annual musical, just hopes to open some minds.
"I'm very aware that cerebral palsy is an itch on the forehead compared to other peoples' struggles," Sadie said. "Whether it's disabled people, colored people, mentally challenged people, nothing in your way is an end. Nothing in your way means you cannot have optimism or hope for your life."