MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Ben Baltz, 11, and Conner Long, 9, love to compete in triathlons. However, the races the two boys run are more challenging for them than other young athletes.
Ben is an osteosarcoma (bone cancer) survivor. He had his right leg amputated when he was 6-years-old, and soon thereafter his father inspired him to compete in triathlons.
"I lost my leg when I was 6 to bone cancer," Ben said. "I thought I'd never be able to play sports again, but I'm still one of the best on my team."
"I asked Ben if he wanted to try to do triathlons," Ben's father J.C. said. "He said sure, but he doesn't like to lose at anything. But he's finding it's fun to be out here and living life to the fullest."
Whereas Ben has to overcome his own physical challenges, Conner gives his younger brother Cayden the opportunity to do the same.
Cayden Long, 7, has cerebral palsy and needs help to walk and talk, but his older brother found a way for him to play sports.
"I'm kind of humble about it," Conner said. "I don't really boast about it – makes me happy that he's just like a regular person."
"It's really amazing how Conner wanted to include his brother in a triathlon," said the boys' mother, Jenny Long. "Of course there are challenges. It's about trying to push through the challenges and working at them."
The two boys have participated in triathlons together since 2011. Conner pulls Cayden in a raft during the swim, and then pulls him in a trailer by bike, and finally pushes his sibling during the run to the finish line.
"It's amazing to be out here as a whole family," Jenny said. "Even though my boys don't cross the finish line like everyone else's kids, that's their way of doing it, and they do."
Over the weekend in the Jubilee Kid's Triathlon in Fairhope, Conner had to complete in most of the race by himself. Cayden was only able to participate in the bike portion.
"We will all get through this as a family and figure it out. It's very challenging when you have a child that's non-verbal that cannot say, ‘Hey mom I was nervous, there were so many people here, I didn't want to go out there,'" Jenny said.
Despite having to swim alone, Conner still pulled the raft his brother would have been in.
"I want them (everyone) to understand my brother, that just because he didn't do the race – he isn't a bad person. He has good days and bad days just like everyone else. I'm still proud of him for at least doing the bike," Conner said.
"He pushed through it and kept going, and I'm very proud of him," Jenny mentioned.
The stories of the Long brothers and Ben Baltz teach us all that challenges – can become inspirations.
"That's the thing about being an amputee – he can do anything – to know that's he's out here pushing himself is a really great thing," said J.C.
"That's what's amazing to watch them stand out and shine – and be able to show other families that anything is possible for their children and not to give up despite the challenges," said Jenny.
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