Jacob Allen, who just finished his junior year at Kingwood Park High School, first came to America as a member of the Host Ukraine Orphan Initiative for a winter visit in 2015, longing to find a family to love.
– Allen has won more than 100 medals –
His dreams came true when he was placed with a family that loved him exactly as he is, wheelchair and all. Eleven months after his winter visit, Jacob’s mother, Sheela, and her husband, David Allen, welcomed him into their family with open arms Nov. 22, 2016, when they made him their son through the gift of adoption.
“That date was our adoption date, but he seemed to fit into our family perfectly from the beginning. He is smart, athletic and naturally talented,” his mother said.
Having been born with spina bifida, a malformation of the spinal cord, Jacob has not only overcome several physical obstacles, but has decidedly succeeded in athletics after much encouragement from his coaches and family.
When Allen first enrolled as a freshman at Kingwood Park in January 2017, he struggled with English and longed to be accepted by his peers. When Jacob and his mother first arrived at Kingwood Park High School, the admissions office realized that Allen would need to have a physical education credit. Therefore, the Allen family worked with Coach Chris Elliott to research options.
Elliott was delighted to find that Allen qualified physically and mentally to compete in track and field, and Jacob received a racing wheelchair from Texas Regional Para Sport. Just 14 weeks later, Jacob won a bronze medal in the 100-meter dash as a freshman at the Texas UIL State Track and Field meet in Austin.
In 2018, as a sophomore, Jacob earned a gold medal in the 100 and a silver medal in the 400, and defended those medals again in May 2019, while also adding a bronze medal in the seated shot put.
Jacob is now in his third year with Texas Regional Para Sport and travels across the country to compete in National and Junior National events, racing five different distances from the 100 to the 1500 and throwing the shot put, discus and javelin. Jacob also competes in road races and won the 2018 San Antonio Half Marathon with a time of 1 hour and 2 minutes.
Although Jacob has experienced much success in a matter of a few years, he has had to overcome several physical and mental challenges. Most significantly, he came to a new country and had to learn to speak, read and write in English. He has also overcome two surgeries, including a partial leg amputation and, just recently, a 14-hour abdominal surgery.
It seems that after each obstacle or challenge, he is back to winning within three to four months. His determination has set him apart physically, mentally and socially in the school hallways, too.
Sheela proudly said, “We couldn’t ask for a better addition to our family. Jacob never lets his physical abilities get in the way of any type of success. Having been a part of Texas Regional Para Sport has allowed him to heal his body faster. His confidence has also enabled him to open doors outside of track and field. Several colleges have already inquired about his skills, even before the end of his junior year.”
She continued, “I would recommend this organization to other students who use wheelchairs, prosthetic legs, are blind or have cerebral palsy. If you are interested, visit texasregionalparasport.org.”
For information about the Host Ukraine Orphan Initiative or ways to help this organization, visit hostukraine.org.