Double amputee Cody McCasland is well known in North Texas, and to some degree the rest of the country, with appearances on Ellen and Oprah. Now the story of the courageous 7-year-old is hitting Europe, too.
Friday, a freelance photographer working for an Italian news service followed the first grader to Glenhope Elementary School in Colleyville to take pictures of him for an upcoming feature in the weekly magazine Oggi.
"Cody is absolutely loving this. He is so excited that people want to know about him and to get to tell his story," said Tina McCasland, Cody's mother. "It's amazing to me that my 7-year-old son is changing the way people view those with disabilities."
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Tina's firsborn had complications from birth. The most life-changing was the absence of knees and bones in Cody's lower legs. His parents decided amputation would give their son the best chance at a normal life. Surgeons amputated both legs at the knees when Cody was 15 months old.
He quickly adapted to prosthetics and now has legs that let him walk, run and participate in sports from running to sled hockey. He's often in local races raising money for Texas Scottish Rite hospital in Dallas, where he gets his prosthetic legs, and Challenged Athletes Foundation. He's a spokesperson for the group which provides financial support for him to compete across the country.
But Cody loves swimming the most. He can't wear his legs in the water. So, his arms propel him through the butterfly, the backstroke and freestyle. Cody competes on a team, Texas River Sharks, and hopes swimming takes him to the Paralympics in London in three years.
"If he has the fastest time he can compete in 2012 at the age of 10, almost a month shy of 11," said Cody's mom.
Cody, though, perhaps scores his biggest victory every day by challenging himself and others to raise expectations of the physically challenged.
"I hope he can continue this as long as he loves it," said McCasland. "He is letting people know that persons with disabilities can do whatever they want as long as they put their mind to it."