Tuttle boy overcomes disability, shows up for football

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Caden Hopper steps forward to run a drill at a little league football camp Thursday, July 21.

Nine-year-old Caden Hopper works hard to do the things that come naturally to most kids. Despite suffering from a condition that limits his motor skills, Caden completed his first weeklong football camp Thursday in the face of a 104-degree heat index. An efficient student, Caden will be a fourth grader a month from now, but he’s already a football player.  “He wanted to play football before, but backed out,” Caden’s mom April Hopper said at the football day camp Thursday. “We told him just do it this year, and if it doesn’t work, you’ll never have to do it again. He’s having fun, but he has to really work. He could not have done this last year.” “This is the first time he’s had the nerve, the confidence and the ability to try out for football even though he’s wanted to and he’s a big boy,” Caden’s grandmother Debbie Tamez said. “He looks like a football player. We have a video from Tuesday where he got totally wiped out, but he got right up and went back in line.” Caden’s mom said that his condition was confusing until it was addressed by a Tuttle teacher.  “We just thought he was kind of scared to try different things,” Hopper said. “After some tests, we found he was afraid to be on a slide or a bicycle because his motor skills won’t allow him to brace himself if he were to fall.” His family believes the reason he’s been able to make such strides is thanks to the quality of Tuttle Elementary teachers.  One of them was second grade teacher Stephanie Sharp who was at the little league football camp held last week. “He’s the best,” Sharp said. “Dinosaurs are his favorite thing. He’s a great kid and he was talkative and made friends really well. Really and truly, there are things we take for granted that he has to really work for and he’s willing to do that.” “Simple things like running or walking and being able to move his hands at the same time,” Tamez said, “He doesn’t have that. Tuttle Schools had a team of teachers working with him. He’s had a hard time but he has really come along.” Caden has attended Tuttle Schools since Pre-K. Caden’s mom said that’s when his teacher Jennifer DeWitt noticed the problems Caden was having. April said that all of Caden’s teachers have made a meaningful impact including Sharp, DeWitt, Mrs. Golowenski, Mrs. Dixon and others.  April also commended the efforts made by other teachers who were not assigned to him. Besides the Tuttle Elementary staff, Tuttle’s Director of Federal Programs Jeff DeWitt has also been an outstanding factor in Caden’s development, April said.  “Caden spends hours with them everyday,” Tamez said. “He has come so far. Tuttle Schools have done just a wonderful job. After they were able to pinpoint the problem, they have just gone way over and beyond.” Caden will appear on the 10U Tuttle Tigers little league team which plays Saturday mornings. The Tuttle Youth Football Association’s last day to sign up will be Thursday, Aug. 4, but signing up before Friday is preferred.

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