By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC

For ten years, Blue Valley Sod, a major Midwestern sod farm, has sponsored this column. Over that time until now, I haven't featured 64-year-old owner Bob Weerts. He has had over his lifetime about a dozen leg-related surgeries and would be significantly taller today had doctors not placed a pin in one knee to stop growth in that leg when he was younger.

In a telephone interview, Weerts said, “I was born in 1952 and had polio when I was a baby. My foot was crippled and one of my legs is shorter than the other. So my body is off when I walk. I limp.”

Even in childhood, he never viewed his disability as a disability. For example, as a pre-schooler, he often took off his leg braces to play football with his brother. Later, he could climb rope faster than anyone at school because of upper-body strength built from compensating for lower-body weakness. That upper-body strength helped him become a .450 softball hitter one year.

He said, “(Having had polio) also gave me the desire to get something done in life and not back down (from challenges). When I was 12, a minister told me (having polio) had happened for a reason. When you have bad legs like me, you have to do more than others. You have to be smarter and have to figure out the easiest way to do things. For instance, instead of walking around the block like everyone else, you may have to take a shortcut.”

Today, in terms of managing his employees, he tries proving daily to them that he can do his share of the work. If with a disability he can do his share, they can do theirs, he said.

“And in my business, I always hire handicapped people because they will give 100 percent,” he said. “They are dedicated. I tell my grandkids if they ever make fun of a person with a disability, your dad or your granddad will get ugly with you. I don't ever want to hear or see that from them.”

Finally, he advised people with disabilities: “Everything happens for a reason, even though you may not know the reason. Just don't ever give up. Some people can't talk in front of people, some can't think fast, some can't do some things. Everybody has a handicap. They just don't realize it. ”

Facebook: Disabilities by Daniel J. Vance. [Sponsored by Blue Valley Sod.]