The Martin Luther King of the disabled . . . .

Hello again from us all here at the OM@home blog, a blog about children and young people, written for children and young people . . . . For young people just like you, about young people who inspire us all at OM HQ.

Young people like Nolan Turner . . . .

Nolan was born with spina bifida and has spent his life searching for something that can make him feel like 'a normal person'.

In recent times, he has found it.

That thing, basketball, the wheelchair version, a sport that, in his own words, 'lets me feel like a regular kid'.

Turning out for the Raleigh Junior Thunder team in North Carolina is Nolan's favourite thing in life, so much so that he decided to introduce his fifth-grade classmates to his preferred pastime.

That, Nolan discovered, came at a cost.

The determined 12-year-old needed $1000 to stage a wheelchair basketball event - open to disabled and able-bodied students alike - at his local school and set about selling bottled water and collecting donations in his neighborhood.

Sitting in his wheelchair, he had raised almost $250 when a man took his collecting jar and disappeared into some nearby woods, leaving Nolan in tears.

'I felt so much anger,' said Ashley Thomas, the founder of Bridge II Sports, a non-profit organization that helps the physically-challenged through sports, and who also has spina bifida. 'You're looked on as helpless, and it's like 'I'll take advantage of you because you can't stop me'. Unfortunately, people see the disability instead of the things you can do.'

The coward who stole from Nolan might have seen his disability, but he did not notice the determination and resolve that his victim has in spades.

You see, refusing to be beaten, Nolan set about turning bad into good and is using an unfortunate episode to benefit others.

Having witnessed the incident, one kind-hearted citizen gave Nolan $60 on the spot. Since then the donations have poured in, the current total standing at more than $26,000.

'It's crazy how that mean act has turned into something positive that has allowed us to do so much more,' said Ashley, who, like Nolan, has been stunned  by the kindness demonstrated by so many selfless strangers. 'The response has been huge.'

Some of the money will be used to fund a full-day wheelchair basketball event, that will enable everyone at Nolan's school to take part. The remainder will go to supporting Camp Carefree, a week-long summer camp for young people with health problems and disabilities that Nolan has attended in the past.

'I'm just happy that there are so many good people in the world and that they are helping my team,' Nolan said. 'Junior Thunder is my favourite thing in life. Playing wheelchair basketball lets me feel like a regular kid.'

Nolan is now drawing up plans to raise funds for some special track-and-field wheelchairs as he continues his quest to help others.

'That's the real success,' said Ashley. '[That] he chose himself to make a difference'.

Nolan's mom, Amy, added, 'He told me, 'I'm going to be the Martin Luther King of disabled people'. He [just] loves raising money. We owe so much to wheelchair sports. I remember after our first game, we went and had pizza and, when we were driving home, Nolan said, 'This makes me feel like a normal person'. Most of his life he's been the oddity . . . . this is such a wonderful thing'.

Nolan has inspired us . . . .

For refusing to give up, for showing such determination and courage, for putting himself out for others, and for proving that there is so much more to disabled people than just their disabilities.

Here's to him and here's to happy endings.

We are all connected.