As we all know by now, some people may be born with a deformity. Some are caused by genetic mutations or chromosomal abnormalities, while others may be caused by environmental factors such as infections or exposure to toxins during pregnancy. Being born with a birth defect is one thing, but having your mother reject you because of that birth defect is a whole other story. That’s exactly what happened to little Gabe. He was only a few days old when he lost everything. When he was only two days old, his mother abandoned him in an orphanage. When his mother saw him, she was disappointed and decided to abandon him. There he was, lying alone in bed all day. Because of Gabe’s condition, the chances of him being adopted were slim.
But one woman was about to change everything. 19 years ago, Gabe was born without arms and legs. The doctors very quickly realized that he was suffering from a rare syndrome called Hanhart syndrome, which is characterized by undeveloped limbs, mouth, and jaw. In Gabe’s case, none of the limbs grew. The National Organization for Rare Diseases says that Hannhart syndrome is a very rare birth defect that has no known cause. Gabe’s biological mother did not want him, so she left him there in the hospital. Gabe’s future didn’t look bright. And fate seemed to want him to be alone and confined to his bed. The chances that someone would adopt him were very small, because he did not look like other children. But one day, Janelle saw a picture of Gabe while shopping at the supermarket and decided she wanted to help him. Many people who saw the picture must have felt the same way, but Janelle was unable to get the picture of the toddler out of her head. Instinctively, Janelle knew she wanted to give this kid a home. Janelle and her husband were already parents to 13 children, and adding another child to the family was not an easy decision. “We had our fears, but I could not stop thinking about this sweet little boy without a family, without arms and legs, who is so far away from us,” Janelle said. But Janelle was able to locate the orphanage home where Gabe lived and begin the adoption process.
The process was very slow, but when they were done with all the paperwork, Janelle and her husband, Ron, were finally able to fly and pick up their new adopted son. It was love at first sight. Gabe joined the family when he was a toddler and just blossomed in their care. From a young age, Gabe began using a wheelchair, but the parents were determined that their son would be as independent as possible. When he was 12, Gabe could do almost anything that children his age could do, despite his disabilities. He knew how to dress alone, walk, eat, and swim. And he even knew how to go up the stairs without anyone’s help. “I can do it, and I do it with a smile”, Gabe said. At school, Gabe tried to get accepted into the dance group as a way to meet friends—and discovered that he could use his limbless body to dance breakdance wonderfully. After graduating from high school, Gabe went on to prove his independence, leaving his parents’ home and embarking on a career as a motivational speaker. The child’s parents wanted him to be independent and not have to be dependent on others all his life. “Our goal has always been to allow Gabe the freedom to choose, and we knew it would only happen if he was independent,” Gabe’s father, Ron, said. But it has not always been easy.
While his siblings experienced school in a more ordinary way—parties, sports teams, and dating—for Gabe, it was a difficult daily experience of bullying and nagging. “I was in an art class one day, and the teacher asked us to criticize the work of the person next to us. So one kid said to me, ‘God seems to have made a mistake with you’. I came home that day and just broke down. I couldn’t get it out of my head,”, Gabe said. When the family adopted Gabe, they thought they were just saving him from a life of loneliness. But they soon realized that it was Gabe who had saved them. He taught them about what really matters in life. And he taught them to work harder and never give up. “I hated my parents, who forced me to do all this hard work, but now I look at them and thank them for pushing me to be independent and be the person they knew I could be,” Gabe said. From the beginning, Janelle and Ron treated Gabe as one of their own. And the more the child learns about himself, the more independent he becomes. Since becoming part of the school’s dance team, Gabe has taken part in dance competitions, come in second place, and even been a guest on a TV show. And as his confidence as a dancer grew, Gabe began his career as a motivational speaker. “I’ve been speaking for about four years, and it’s pretty crazy with all the places I’ve gotten to see and all the amazing people I’ve gotten to know and hear their stories and how I can help them,” he said.