ORLANDO, Fla. — Mason Berry is discovering what life is like as an adaptive athlete — and excelling. The 11-year-old’s story has caught the attention of the UCF community as his family searches for proper-fitting equipment for him.
What You Need To Know
- Mason Berry, 11, is learning to play sports as an adaptive athlete
- He needs special equipment, which is expensive
- Former UCF long snapper Tyler Paul met Berry at a football clinic
- He helped connect Berry and his mom with Britt’s Bunch, which previously has helped kids with disabilities
“I think his confidence would just shine so much,” said Mason’s mother, Mary Frazier. “When he feels confident, he’s a totally different kid.”
Berry is confident enough that he has his own YouTube channel.
“I just want people to be able to get off their keisters,” Berry said. “I want to be an inspiration.”
That confidence hasn’t always been there. Berry was born with spina bifida. He already has had over 40 back and knee surgeries that have kept him on the sideline.
“It’s just…it’s just frustrating,” he said.
His mother became concerned about some of those frustrations.
“He was making a lot of statements about his life — very negative things,” Frazier said. “I felt like I needed to do something for him.”
As she searched for solutions, Frazier learned about DreamPlex, which was hosting a football clinic. The center provides persons of all abilities with opportunities to achieve their dreams in sports, recreation, therapy and employment.
That’s where former UCF long snapper Tyler Paul met Berry.
“The whole time (he was) just all over the place on the field with the energy, just nonstop, just having the best time,” Paul said.
Paul was one of the Knights football players who ran the clinic, and he immediately noticed Berry as the child played sports for the very first time.
“He’s got so much energy and so much joy — every second that you’re with him,” Paul said. “For him to share it with us, looking back, was huge — and to continue to share it with us. It rubs off on you, all of his positivity, his energy. (He’s) just an awesome kid to be around.”
Berry said he gets a sense of control when he plays sports.
“(It) makes me feel like I have power in it,” Berry said.
“I can do what other people do. I just do it different.”
Berry and Paul have stayed close friends. Paul comes by his practices in other sports — like sled hockey, waterskiing and sit volleyball.
“Sometimes I just stand there and watch him, crying because I never thought it was gonna be possible,” Frazier said. “When he was little, what was out there for him to do? What can he do?”
As Berry is dream-chasing, another obstacle stands in the way of him reaching his full potential. As a single mother, Frazier has struggled to afford the expensive adaptive equipment he needs, such as a racing wheelchair. The one Berry has now is made for an adult.
“You can see right now — as he goes to push the wheel, it’s right in his armpits,” Frazier said.
Berry confirmed the struggle.
“It can swerve everywhere,” he said. “It can go the wrong way, and I can fall out. I’m just scared because I don’t want to bust my face.”
Paul said he knew exactly who to call to get help for Berry and Frazier: UCF superfans Britt and Jan Garcias. Their group, Britt’s Bunch, has provided opportunities and aid to numerous children with disabilities.
“When I went to his sled-hockey practice, that’s when I found out about how he was having problems with his racing chair,” Paul said. “Just basically with the platform that I was able to build here at UCF, I knew there was something I could do. There was something I could jumpstart. It spoke to me in a different way, and (I’m) just trying to run with it right now.”
Jan Garcias, Britt’s mother, has accepted the challenge, too.
“With Tyler and Britt’s Bunch and, hopefully the community, we’re gonna get him what he needs,” she said. “And we’re gonna be there cheering him on when he gets his gold medal.”
Those hoping to help Berry find and obtain the equipment he needs can reach out on the Britt’s bunch website.