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Fourth-grader’s determination inspires others

Fourth-grader’s determination inspires others

Staff Photo by Amanda Lowrance

Role models are found in sports on a daily basis, but how many of them are only nine years old? Sydni Aylor of Hornsby is playing softball with a prosthetic leg and has continued to dedicate and spend her time learning the sport she loves so much, despite the obstacles she has to overcome.

In March 2007, a day that began with fun and laughter, quickly reversed after terrifying shrieks and panic. That playful, outdoor afternoon, four-year-old Sydni lost her leg in a lawn mower accident. 

She was airlifted to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, where the Aylors made a nine-day stay. After three unsuccessful surgeries, the nerves and tendons in her foot were permanently damaged. Doctors amputated her leg just below the knee and used her calf muscle to help cover and protect the end of her leg bone to give more comfort and support for an upcoming prosthetic.

“All of my family plays sports,” said Sydni, “so it’s in my blood. My favorite sport is softball. I enjoy playing and being with my friends. My nurse from LeBonheur, Regina Goulder played in high school and when I was in the hospital she talked about playing.”

Only a year after the life-altering accident and her full recovery, she picked up her bat and glove and has not turned back since. 

“‘No’ is not in her vocabulary,” said mother Jennifer Aylor. “She is good all-around and overall. I think it’s because she does not let anything bad in. She gives 110 percent and she would be the one to talk another player out of feeling discouraged.”

Five years later, she is running, laughing, competing in sports, and doing the things any other 9-year-old would be doing. Nothing slows down this soon-to-be fourth grader.

If she thinks she can do it, she gives it a try. Many children feel discouraged after the first failed attempt, but not Aylor. Her sights are limitless.

“She told us the other night she wanted to be the kicker for the high school football team when she got older,” said her mother. “She wanted to climb a rock wall and she did. We don’t discourage her from doing anything.”

At first the Aylors had to carry their daughter until she became more comfortable with her prosthetic leg. Just like all other kids, her energy and curiosity took the wheel and her parents were completely supportive in everything she did. 

“We don’t hold her back,” said father, Paul Aylor. “If she wants to try it, we let her try it.”

This year she is competing on two separate teams. Aylor’s father has coached her for more than three years and is currently coaching her 7 and 8-year-old All-Star league team out of Bolivar, Tenn., plus Sydni has recently joined a 9 and 10-year-old McNairy County travel ball team, called the Selmer Crush.

Throughout her softball career, she has become well-known and has met new people. Her story can now be an inspiration to the locals of McNairy County.

The first baseman looks back on her softball past thus far and recalls, “My favorite memory was when I made All-Stars as a six-year-old, and my best memory was when I hit my first home run when I was seven.”

Sydni admires Babe Ruth, not only because he played for her favorite team, the New York Yankees, but because he made history.

Former Yankee and MLB pitcher, Jim Abbott’s story runs parallel to Aylor’s. Abbott was born without his right hand, but overcame his disability to play collegiately and professionally, and later became a motivational speaker.

“The thing about a disability is, it’s forever,’’ Abbott, a left-handed pitcher who would make a throw and quickly slide his glove from his nub arm to his working hand for a catch, once wrote. “And forever might not end, but it has to start somewhere.’’

Technology has advanced since Abbott’s time and Aylor has more options available, especially after reaching her growth peak.

“She doesn’t have any movement in her ankle,” said Ms. Aylor, “but that will come with time. There will be better technology. It will be where she can get an ankle that will twist. By the time she is 16, there is no telling what all they will have.”

There have been some twists and turns along the way, enduring physical therapy to regain strength and motion in her leg, but Sydni does not allow the disability to affect her determination or outlook on life.

“As we watch her grow and prosper, we are reminded of how precious a child’s life and health is to a parent,” her father said.

Many look at her situation and find pity, but what you will find, especially when you get to know her, is inspiration. There is nothing she cannot do.

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