Hurdling obstacles, physical or mental, is a little more difficult when you only have one leg, but you wouldn't know it by watching Joseph Smith. Joseph, 6, was born without a fibula in his left leg and required amputation. Since birth, his parents have made it very clear their son would have the same benefits and fun other kids his age have. With the help of Shriners Hospital in Tampa, he underwent surgery at 10 months and was fitted with a prosthesis shortly after. "It was a very hard time for (my wife and me)," Paul Smith, Joseph's father, said. "We listened to the doctors and decided that amputation was the best option."
Because of how long he has had the prosthesis, Joseph can't remember being without it, and his attitude reflects that. He uses his positive outlook in his role as a patient ambassador at Shriners. Visiting the hospital every six months to get his prosthesis adjusted, he gets a lot of questions about his leg and is almost always more than happy to explain his experiences.
Paul and Stacey Smith encouraged their son to be active, including involvement with the YMCA's baseball and basketball programs. He slipped into sports so smoothly that some onlookers, coaches and teammates included, didn't even realize right away that he played with a prosthesis.
"You'd never know he has (an amputation) if you saw him on the field," YMCA youth coordinator Jennifer Huden said. "He's out there playing around just like everyone else."
For three years now, Joseph has been participating in athletic programs at the YMCA Hernando Branch in Spring Hill. Besides basketball and baseball, he also plays soccer, floor hockey and would like to join the Spring Hill Wrestling Club soon.
"A friend of mine has been trying to get him involved in wrestling for a while now," Paul Smith said. "His mom is pretty excited about it already, so if he wants to do it, we're not going to stop him."
Joseph might be more active than most children his age, but still enjoys playing video games with his friends. Video games are nice, but in the end, he always ends up going back outside. Baseball and hockey are his current favorites.
"I love hockey because the players get to move around a lot," Joseph said. He loves playing baseball, too, and it doesn't hurt that his cousin is engaged to Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino.
However, it's another role model that Joseph eventually aspires to be like — his father. Joseph's initial response to what he wants to be when he gets older is "policeman." Paul Smith is a Hernando County sheriff's deputy.
"Some (deputies) get to ride on motorcycles," Joseph said. "I think that would be a lot of fun."
It would be easy to say Joseph is just like every other 6-year-old. That's just not true. He's special, not because of his prosthetic leg, but because of his outgoing attitude toward life. He's special because he has two parents who tell him there is absolutely nothing wrong with him.
"Sure, there are times that (Joseph) gets a little down and wishes he had two good legs," Paul said, "but (his mother and I) just let him know that he is who he is and there's nothing wrong with that."
Submit feedback, story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.