Meet Kevin Hudak, an 18-year-old athlete from Akron, OH, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 1 year old. “One of my girlfriends who worked at the hospital stopped by to meet Kevin but discovered that he had apnea,” Kevin’s mother, Karen, explained. “Then, we discovered that he had a stroke in utero, which we didn’t know about. On top of that, he was having seizures and he wasn’t eating well, but we finally got the diagnosis when he was 1 year of age, however doctors told us that he wouldn’t walk or talk,” she told me.
But this story is one of courage, perseverance, and love that has led Kevin to now stand on a tennis court and be able to hit tennis balls.
When he was 2 years old, Karen and her husband discovered a place in Philadelphia that they would go to for 10 years, which helped Kevin reach milestones he never thought possible. “After they evaluated Kevin, they created a very intense specific program to do at home but we had to get trained for a week to be able to carry it on,” she laughs. “Once we got him off his seizure meds, he started eating right away and he eventually got to walking, which was so exciting,” the proud mother remembered.
After he finished his time with the Philadelphia program, Kevin continued with regular therapies, but still had to go through a couple of surgeries to help his walking. “We had so much help with the Philadelphia program, we couldn’t have done it without them,” Karen said with a chuckle in her voice.
Now a senior in High School, Kevin has thoroughly enjoyed going to ACEing Autism since the Fall of 2021, and has created a special bond with his volunteer, Mr. Bill. “I have to mention Mr. Bill drives an hour to come,” she shared with so much gratitude.
“Mr. Bill started whistling to get his attention and he loved it,” Karen said. “He loves it there; he knows we’re going there, he gets very excited, and he is in a good mood.”
On top of improving his mood, Karen has seen other developments. “I definitely noticed that when he was in the car to go to tennis, he was trying to whistle, and he came close a couple of times. Since he started doing that in tennis, I told his therapist, so we tried to blow bubbles and he got that right away. So I said, maybe he can learn to drink with a straw, and now he can,” she rejoiced.
Some of his motor skills such as being able to place his hand across his body have also gotten better, according to his mother. But Kevin, who loves music, especially Christmas music, doesn’t stop at tennis when it comes to playing sports. “He plays baseball in the Spring and he goes to our community center for adapted fitness, art, and music, and he dances twice a week,” she told me. “We’ve always been busy so we always look for ways to fill his calendar and keep him busy.”
But getting to this place was far from easy. Even after overcoming so many obstacles as a young infant and child, Kevin went through a very tough time in 2020. “In early 2020, he was really sick so we went to the hospital, and it so happens to be the week of the shutdown,” she recalled. “We were there six weeks as he had an intestinal thing and it was very scary with COVID starting. It was a weird time to be there, and even though he went home, he still had to have another surgery in 2021 to clean everything up.”
Through it all, Kevin has persevered in a way that is inspiring to us all. From being told that he wouldn’t walk to now loving to ride his bike and communicating through his talker, he has shown everyone his resilience and we couldn’t be more proud of him.
Congratulations Kevin and we can’t wait to see what milestone you reach next!