For people born with special needs and debilitating disorders, it can be difficult to fit in socially. Not only do many of these people face a lifetime of health complications, but they can also become lifetime victims of bullying simply because they happen to be different. Michael was a California man who was born with a rare genetic disorder that affected his face and mental development. He spent his entire life overcoming a wide variety of health obstacles, but never let them get him down, despite his face’s different appearance. Sadly, his disorder made him the subject of merciless bullying.
When a recent attack left him feeling terrified and alone, his favorite sports team stepped up to the plate in more ways than one…
For Sylvia and Joe Cadena, the birth of their son Michael was one of the most amazing moments of their lives. It was love at sight for the new parents, but unfortunately, that joy would soon turn to worry when the doctors discovered a difficult diagnosis.
A Rare Genetic Disorder
It seemed little Michael had been born with a rare genetic disorder known as Apert syndrome, which caused the bones in Michael’s skull to fuse prematurely. Due to this growth complication, the skull has problems growing at a normal rate.
Years of Health Complications
Due to the bones in Michael’s head being fused too early, the disorder caused him a wide variety of health complications over the years. In fact, he had to undergo several surgeries to prevent further problems in his adult life.
Always A Target
Unfortunately, the health complications were the least of Michael’s worries. He also was a target of extreme bullying in school since the Apert syndrome impacted the size and shape of his head. Since he looked different from others, it made him an easy target.
Standing Up for Himself
From an early age, Michael’s parents taught him to always stand up for himself and never be a victim.“We told him, ‘Don’t be a bully and don’t be bullied,’” Joe Cadena said.
Refusing to Be a Victim
Despite Michael’s delayed development, when he became an adult he wished to have a job and contribute to society. He decided to take a position at the local thrift store, Savers, although his parents were very worried. They warned him that he could still face bullying, even from his fellow employees.
While Michael’s mother Sylvia was very supportive of his decision, she did warn him to be careful. Unfortunately, her warnings would soon become a reality one day in April 2018…
One Fateful Day
It was the morning of April 12 when Michael arrived at his job a little too early. Deciding to take a detour to Target, he unfortunately never made it into the store due to some bullies deciding to harass him at the entrance.
Michael knew the guys were up to no good when he approached the store entrance and tried to quickly enter the store. However, one of the guys decided to step out and prevent him from going any further.
Not Backing Down
As a diehard Los Angeles Dodgers fan, Michael never went anywhere without his favorite Dodgers cap. Unfortunately, it seemed that’s what the guys wanted. When they demanded he hand the cap over, Michael refused. There was no way he was going to let these bullies win.
A Cold-Hearted Attack
Michael immediately drove past the guy on his scooter when he demanded the cap again, making his way into the store. However, before he could get help the man pushed him and stole his cap. To say Michael was devastated would be an understatement.
Filing a Police Report
“I was scared and nervous and frightened,” Michael said. “My heart was pounding. They shoved me.” Yet despite his fear, he immediately called the police and filed a police report.
According to Michael’s parents, he did the right thing.
“He knows what to do. I’m really proud that that day he went into the store and asked for help,” Sylvia said after the incident. “He did the right thing speaking up and saying what was in his heart and mind.”
Social Media to the Rescue
The police immediately opened an investigation into the robbery, while Sylvia decided to post about the incident on social media with the hopes it could help track down the thief. Little did she know her post would quickly spread around the community and the response was absolutely shocking…
A Beautiful Response
When people heard about Michael, they began to send him new LA Dodgers hats. One kind and giving couple also sent Michael tickets to see the Dodgers play the Miami Marlins. The love of the community left Sylvia and Jon speechless.
Dreams Do Come True
Even better, the Dodgers quickly heard about what happened to Michael and offered him the opportunity of a lifetime. The chance to throw the first ceremonial pitch at a local game.
The chance to throw the first pitch was absolute dream come true for Michael. While he had never thrown a ball due to some of the bones in his hand being fused together, he decided to immediately start practicing in the backyard. There was no way he would pass up such an amazing opportunity.
A Life-Changing Moment
The day of the game was a magical moment for Michael and his family. He got the chance to meet his favorite players, as well as hang out on the field before throwing the first pitch. Even better, he got to throw the ball to his favorite player, Cody Bellinger. How amazing is that?
“I had told him to go from a distance of about 40 feet, but for whatever reason, he went to the top of the mound. I’m proud of him. He did well,” Joe told the local news. “He made out like a champ. He’s on cloud 9 right now. He’s beyond words,”
Transforming a Negative to a Positive
The moment is one that Michael will most likely cherish the rest of his life. It’s the perfect example of how a negative situation can turn into something amazing and positive.“It’s unfortunate that this happened, for someone to target someone so innocent and vulnerable. But lots of love has come out of this. We’re really grateful for the community, grateful for the support,” his mother said.
We wish Michael all the luck in the world.