Sean Nichols, 12, of Edgewood, Kentucky, a sixth-grader at Villa Madonna Academy, has participated in numerous community outreach activities over the past seven years to help people better understand the challenges and abilities of people with physical disabilities. Sean has used a wheelchair or crutches to get around ever since he was diagnosed with a spinal cord inflammation called transverse myelitis at a very young age. “It causes difficulty walking and some other painful things,” he explained. “For as long as I can remember, I have had people ask me about my disability. I learned how to speak up for myself.” And speaking up is exactly what he’s been doing.
Sean has participated in many disability awareness programs over the years. He has given talks at his school, served as a guest lecturer at the University of Cincinnati, delivered presentations to physical therapy students and fellow Cub Scouts, served as a “poster child” for the Transverse Myelitis Association’s annual fundraiser, and collaborated with a high school wheelchair basketball team to promote disability awareness. In addition, he has enthusiastically demonstrated to others how he can ride horses and play basketball even with his disability. He estimates that more than 500 people have heard him talk about the challenges and abilities that can come with having a physical disability. “Hopefully they will now be more open to other people who have a disability,” he said. On top of his disability work, Sean is active in his Scout community; he volunteered as a Cub Scout camp staffer this past summer, has served as troop librarian and, in 2016, represented the Cub Scouts in an Oval Office visit with the president.