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Jeff Davis senior selected for Special Olympics World Games

November 17, 2018

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Joseph Bradley wasn’t surprised when his mom, Mary Bradley, announced he had been selected to participate in the Special Olympics World Games. He had already told her he was going to Abu Dhabi after all.

Once his prediction came true, he told her he’d be bringing home the gold.

A senior at Jeff Davis High School, Joseph has been going to Montgomery’s Therapeutic Recreation Center since age 6. In 2011, he was in gymnastics when he told his mom he’d rather ride horses, an endeavor that she said she was skeptical and scared of, since Joseph is paralyzed on the right side of his body.

It turned out, though, that Joseph was quite good once he mastered mounting the horse. He won the state’s Special Olympics in equestrian in May, which qualified him to attend the international games. It has been at least 10 years since an Alabamian has been selected to attend, and decades longer since anyone from the state has been selected for the Equestrian Team.

The significance of the accomplishment is massive for Mary Bradley, who as a single mother of three boys has watched her son struggle since age 2.

Joseph had been born a healthy baby boy and was thriving when he went to stay with his father over the Labor Day weekend in 2002. His father had two older children and Joseph had stayed with him overnight periodically so it still remains a mystery what led to Mary Bradley being told she needed to start planning her son’s funeral while in the Birmingham Children’s Hospital because Joseph had first, second and third-degree burns and a blood clot on his brain.

Joseph’s father had put him in scalding hot water, hit his head with a blunt object and kicked him in the groin. He had brain surgery, then suffered a stroke which led to the paralysis. Mary Bradley was told if he lived, he’d be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. He started having seizures, which persist today, and he had to leave the state to have skin grafts due to the burns.

His father went to prison for first degree assault. Earlier this year his parole was denied.

“Joseph has dreams to become a chef or a doctor,” she said, dreams that between his physical and developmental challenges she doesn’t think are realistic.

“To see something come to fruition that he really loves and can actually do and to reach the goal for what he wants to do is amazing,” she said. “His smile and joy are abundant for me.”

The Special Olympics will handle the costs of getting Joseph to Abu Dhabi, where he will join 10,000 delegates from 170 nations in March — two days before his 19th birthday. He’ll stay with a host family so he can be immersed in the culture.

“I just like being there and riding horses,” Joseph said about the recreational center.

“It’s calming and relaxing,” he said about why he likes riding horses.

The key is to be patient with the horse, he explained.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him,” Mary Bradley said, which is why she hopes she and Joseph’s brothers can join him in Abu Dhabi to support him in his competition. To do that, she is working to raise enough funds to order their three passports, purchase three plane tickets, and pay for the cost of a hotel stay for 13 nights and food during the trip. The tickets alone are about $5,500. It’ll be the first time anyone in the family has left the country.

First though, she is focused on finding the money to pay for what Joseph will need. At the therapeutic center, he hasn’t been trained in dressage, one of three areas he will have to compete in. Because of this, Mary Bradley will need to pay for Joseph to train at MANE, a therapeutic horseback riding ranch in East Montgomery. He also needs a list of riding equipment and attire.

Gas alone has been a struggle for her. She works full time as a contractor on Gunter Annex while taking classes online for a degree in finance and business. Joseph’s doctors are in Birmingham and depending on how he is doing, they might need to make multiple trips a week. Round trip, it takes three-quarters of a tank of gas, she said.

The abuse, she said, is something she never expected from Joseph’s father. Sixteen years later, she can’t help but hold back tears when trying to talk about what happened.

“Every day I go through, if I had not let him go with his dad, where would we be? I ask myself was there something else I could have done to keep him from going through this?” she said. “And I’ve searched me to make sure I didn’t do any wrong. But it still — it is guilt because I’m Momma. I’m here to protect you, keep you, nurture you.”

Now, her children don’t leave her side, she said.

“My kids are with me. I’ve had someone tell me I was overprotective, and I told her if she walked in my shoes and if she didn’t feel how I feel then all right.”

Joseph’s trip will be the longest she’s ever been away from him, even if she is able to meet up with him mid-March for the games.

“It’s my desire to go so we can continue to support him throughout this process, to be there for him as we have been,” Mary Bradley said.

But if they can’t go, “I’ll have to hear about it when he comes home,” she said with a smile.

When it comes to donations, “We’re all struggling, truth be told. We all have needs and nobody has to give but I am extremely grateful and even if you can’t give money, even your prayers — for Joseph and his team and the rest of the delegates’ safety.”

Ways to Donate:

An online T-shirt fundraiser will run through Nov. 30 at www.gojoseph2019.bigcartel.com

Donations can be made at Navy Federal Credit Union under Account No. 3103950097, under the name Joseph Fundraiser

Donations, either from the list of needed items or monetary, can be sent to Mary Bradley, P.O. Box 231378, Montgomery, AL 36123

Items Joseph needs:

Equestrian specific:

Equestrian Helmet- ASTM/SEI Certified

Equestrian gloves (if used for equestrian)

Equestrian boots (English or Western-event specific)

Equestrian socks (boot friendly) 2-3 pair

Stirrup leathers and Irons

Adaptive Equipment (such as Rainbow reins, etc.)

Equestrian pants 3 pair

Equestrian jerseys - 2-3 each

Rain jacket for Equestrian

Long sleeve jersey to wear under equestrian jersey for cooler weather, 2 each

Cool weather equestrian jacket

For Abu Dhabi trip:

Plain windbreaker jacket

5 pairs of pajamas

Underwear

T-shirts

Socks

7 short sets

4 short sleeve dress shirt

2 pair khaki dress pants

2 pair navy dress pants

2 pairs of Black Nike to support custom made lift

Items Joseph would like:

Camera to capture all the memories

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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