Dynamic Duo Wins Sports Illustrated Kids SportsKid of the Year
By Chris Rohan, Disabled Dealer Magazine
I first saw brothers Conner Green and Cayden Long on Good Morning America and was immediately drawn to them.
Team Long Brothers was established the summer of 2011 by Conner, a very determined 7-year-old. Conner's little brother, 5-year-old Cayden, was diagnosed with Spastic Cerebral Palsy. Cayden can’t walk or speak. Conner had always longed to play outside and ride bikes with his brother. However, the odds were a little against him until the day Jenny Long, the boys’ mother, was reading through Nashville Parent Magazine and stumbled across an upcoming Kids Triathlon.
When an inquisitive Conner discovered that the kids in the photos were racing, he asked if he and Cayden could do it, too. Well, Mom didn’t want to say no, but knew she had to put her brains together and first get permission from the people at the race. She got the okay from the racing organization and Team Long Brothers was born!
Conner and Cayden participated in their first Triathlon as a team on June 5, 2011 at the Nashville Kids Triathlon. Though they did not place first, second or even third, that didn’t matter. That day, they made a connection as brothers which they will never forget!
“We wanted to inspire and move other families with a special needs child—or even a family that doesn’t have a special needs child—that anyone can do anything with the support and love of each other!” beamed the proud mother of the young athletes. “This is not the last of Team Long! As long as Conner wants to race with his brother, they will race! Thank you to everyone for all the support.”
The 18 months that followed has been an exciting journey for Team Long Brothers. Along with their parents, they went from participating in a small local event to becoming national news. The boys competed in more triathlons using special equipment which allowed Conner to push, pull and carry his brother in the three events—swimming, cycling and running.
Conner pulls Cayden in a raft for the swimming competition and in a trailer during the cycling leg of the race. When it’s time to run, Conner pushes that trailer and a triumphant Cayden leads his brother across the finish line.
The two have competed in the IronKids Triathlon and even met a hero, Dick Hoyt, whose own efforts racing triathlons and marathons with his son actually blazed the trail for Team Long Brothers. Hoyt’s son Ricky also has Cerebral Palsy and, like Cayden, tackled each race with enthusiasm and excitement for many years.
Their October 2012 visit to ABC’s Good Morning America presented the brothers with another huge surprise as they were named the 2012 Sports Illustrated SportsKids of the Year. Recently famous for competition and inspiration as youth triathletes, Conner and Cayden were selected for the award among thousands of nominees after winning the online vote for finalists. The boys and their mother were live on GMA when host Josh Elliott unexpectedly brought out Bob Der, the managing editor and publisher of Sports Illustrated Kids.
“I am here to let you guys know that you are officially the 2012 Sports Illustrated SportsKids of the Year,” said Der, walking out on set with commemorative jackets for the boys for the award. “We are going to come out to Tennessee and shoot [your photos] for the cover of the December issue of Sports Illustrated Kids, and then you’re going to come back to New York for the Sportsmen of the Year Ceremony.”
What’s next for Team Long Brothers? More racing, of course, but that’s not all.
According to their website, the “ultimate goal of Team Long Brothers is to form a not-for-profit organization which will provide advice, emotional, spiritual and financial support to groups and families of disabled children. We aim to help to build confidence, hope and self-esteem to the disabled by including them in family and community activities. Our mission is to provide a series of support groups for the disabled and the families of disabled individuals. We would also like to be able to provide disabled families with wheel chairs, bicycles and accessible playground equipment.”
Anyone considering a donation to help recognize Team Long Brothers as a not-for-profit should visit teamlongbrothers.blogspot.com. For more information, please also visit teamlongbrothers.org.Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!