HOMEPAGE: www.danieljvance.com

By Daniel J. Vance

One great pleasure I have writing this column is getting to know some really incredible people.

One such person has been Scott Rogers of Washburn, Tennessee, who I first interviewed in late 2003 before his historic hike of the 2,170-mile Appalachian Trail. His feat grabbed international headlines, including several Associated Press articles, and mentions on Paul Harvey and CNN.

It took him until September 2005, but finally he finished as the first above-the-knee amputee to navigate the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Over the last three years we've become good friends, and call each other at least once a month.

Rogers became an amputee after a 1998 hunting accident. To hike, he uses a high-tech Otto Bock “Computer Leg,” replete with microprocessors, sensors and hydraulics that help his left “bionic” knee swing and stand.

Over the years, Rogers' life experiences have greatly softened a heart that used to be callous toward people having disabilities. He and wife Leisa have seven children of their own; now they are in the process of adopting a little boy with multiple disabilities.

“Most people (when adopting) want the perfect child,” said Rogers in a telephone interview. “They want ten fingers and ten toes. They want their child to have the ability to understand when you tell them you love them and the ability to respond back. You can see pictures on the Internet of these (ready-to-adopt) children with special needs and wonder why so many have been turned over to the system just because they're deaf, can't walk or have cerebral palsy, for instance. It just breaks your heart.”

He urged people not to condemn anyone giving up special needs children for adoption, saying the biological parents in many cases don't have sufficient maturity, the skill sets or resources to raise a disabled child. Not everyone can parent a special needs child, he said.

“But my wife was a special education teacher for ten years,” said Rogers. “As for me, prior to my hunting accident, I didn't pay any attention at all to the kids in her class. But afterwards, I realized I was not that different from them.”

He and his wife have been trying to adopt a 4-year-old deaf boy who doesn't walk. “And the more we hear about him, the more we love him,” Rogers added.

For more, see danieljvance.com or www.onelegwonder.com [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com]