Patience Beard, Razorback Cheerleader
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) -- Being a college student can be tough. Being an athlete can make it even harder. But what if you physically had to work nearly twice as hard as anyone else? The University of Arkansas has one such student athlete.
"She's very positive. She works really, really hard to be able to do what we do," says fifth year Razorback cheerleader Kevin Ellstrand.
"Real sweet, sweet girl. Very hard working girl. And stubborn. Very stubborn," adds Kraig Jimenez, head coach of the Razorback cheer squad.
They're talking about Patience Beard. She's a freshman cheerleader at the University of Arkansas, but she's not like the rest of them.
"Every day life. This is just who I've been and how I've always been," Beard says.
How she's always been and where she is today in life is a story unlike any other.
Beard was born with proxy focal femoral deficiency, or PFFD, a disease that affects bone growth.
"When I was like 7 to 9 months old I had my left foot amputated," explains Beard.
But that never stopped her from acting like any other kid.
"[I have] two older brothers that definitely helped me be a normal, rough and tough girl. Growing up they didn't treat me any different. They picked on me just as hard as any other siblings would," says Beard.
As for her parents, Beard says, "they are great. They are the ones that got me to where I am. They have pushed me to do this. Without my parents I wouldn't have the confidence that I have."
Growing up, she wanted an outlet for that active spirit.
"My sixth grade year in middle school they had the cheer leaders, you know, but you couldn't try out until 7th grade. But all my friends were doing and I wanted to do it, so I tried out and made it. And ever since then, I've loved it," she says.
That desire to feel and act normal translates to the field where head coach Kraig Jimenez says Beard trains just as hard as the rest of the squad.
"She's a very, very hard worker. Any time we condition, she never complains, she never stops. I'd always ask her 'Are you ok? Do we need to stop and do something different?' and she would say 'Nope, no, no.' And you could tell she was kind of sore, a little bit more than other people, but she won't stop. She wants to do everything everyone else does which is great," says Jimenez.
Beard's stunt partner, Kevin Ellstrand, says Beard doesn't let her disability get in the way.
"Stunting might be a little bit different, but she's a person just like everybody else. And I think that's the way she would like to be treated which is fine with me because I don't see people with those sort of physical circumstances as being any different," says Ellstrand.
Beard agrees. She says sometimes it's hard to keep her feet together in stunts, but that's where working with a fifth year cheerleader comes in hand.
"He's just like 'just try hard' and 'you got it' and 'every once and awhile we'll get it perfect.' Sometimes we'll mess up," Beard says.
No matter what the obstacle, she has the support of those around her.
"She fits right in. right in with everyone else. You just can't tell the difference," Jimenez adds.
That support helps her motivate others.
"You just have to push yourself. Perseverance is [the] key to everything. You have to push yourself. You can't make excuses for yourself. You have to try your hardest at everything. And you're going to hit obstacles and it's going to be hard, but as long as you want it, you can do it," says Beard.
Patience is just a freshman at the U of A and she plans to continue cheering throughout her time there. Upon graduation, she hopes to become a motivational speaker. She says she wants to help encourage others with disabilities to work hard to achieve their goals, no matter what.