SANDY LAKE, Pa. (WKBN) – October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month. It’s a rare disease where the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. One man from Sandy Lake is not letting the disease stop him from living life.
Richard Jenkins is 25 years old.
He likes Nascar, football and serving his community.
“I try to put others before myself, too,” he said.
When Jenkins was little, he wanted to be a police officer. But, he was born with spina bifida, which affects his mobility.
“Yes, I can walk. Yes, I can move around, but I do need assistance with a walker,” Jenkins said.
But Jenkins still had that itch to help his community. So, he decided to join the Sandy Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
“Main reason I joined was to try to help in any way I can,” he said.
When Jenkins went for the job, the fire chief knew there would be certain limitations.
“Well, we did have to stress to him at first that operationally, there’s not a lot he’s going to be able to do,” said Chief Logan Downing.
And Jenkins fully understood that.
“Yeah, I may be not rushing to save Mary Muffins from a burning house… I’m out there to offer a lending hand, to wash hoses or fill air bottles… There’s work that needs to be done and I’m perfectly capable of doing it,” he said.
Jenkins also said being an emotional support is not only part of his job, it’s part of who he is.
“If I know that somebody is having a bad day, I’ll go up and help them and say, ‘Tell me what’s the problem, what can I do to help you?'” he said.
“Interesting to see somebody who is of sound mind, but not always of sound body, would want to help out when there’s others that don’t want to,” Downing said.
Jenkins spreads the message that you can achieve what you want, no matter the limitations.
“If you want to be a part of your community and help out your community, go out and do whatever you want to do… Don’t let having a disability stop you from living your dream,” he said.
Jenkins has one request for the community — for everyone to wear an aqua or teal colored shirt for National Spina Bifida Day on Oct. 25.