BONITA — Expressing his hardships and triumphs while battling facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, Bonita eighth-grader Sam Ray is one of the winners of the national Scholastic’s annual essay contest.
The annual essay, “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life,” was created by Scholastic and Major Baseball League in honor of Jackie Robinson, to inspire students by Robinson’s perseverance and to teach them how to use the same values he did to overcome hardships within their lives.
At the age of 6, Ray was diagnosed with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). At the age of 13, Ray lost his ability to walk and is losing the ability to function his hands and arms.
Ray’s essay, “Strength in Determination,” details his experience of friendships, hardships and perseverance as he raises awareness and money for FSHD research. He compared his classmates to the Brooklyn Dodgers and also wrote of his own calculated experiments as he designs exoskeletons and takes supplements in the effort to keep his muscles from deteriorating.
The Courier asked Ray how he felt about receiving recognition for his writing.
“It is very thrilling and, yes, I am excited. This is the first time I’ve really ever been recognized on such a big scale,” he said, adding that writing about his physical trials helps give a sense of empowerment.
“(It says) that I can overcome muscular dystrophy and I should just keep helping raise awareness and money. Being recognized does give me a sense of empowerment that makes an impact.”
Ray told the Courier that he will mostly likely write in the future and has been thinking about taking a larger writing class in school.
“Big thanks to Mrs. Lorang, my ELA teacher, from Bonita Elementary for helping me register, telling me about it and submitting my essay. She has played a major role in helping me become a good writer,” Ray said. “Also, to the whole Bonita School My friends and teachers have put on bake sales to help raise money and come to the walk each year. Even when it got scheduled on fair week, they still made me a poster. Thanks to all of Bonita.”
On April 14, the Arizona Diamondbacks invited Ray to the game against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field. Ray was honored during a pregame ceremony at home plate. As one of the winners of the contest, Ray received a laptop, a class set of books by Sharon Robinson, and his class a set of T-shirts from Scholastic.