Profile of a CCISD Graduate, Part Two

Profile of a CCISD Graduate, Part Two
Posted on 05/20/2021
Gabriel Hull

Gabriel Hull has spent the last 18 years proving people wrong and advocating for individuals with disabilities.

After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy before he reached his second birthday, he has encountered his fair share of obstacles, but never let this define him as a person.

“I think the biggest part about living with a disability is living like you don’t have the disability,” Gabriel said. “My parents raised me where I was never a disabled child, I was just a child.”

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that effects bone and muscle growth due to abnormal brain development.

“My parents noticed that I wasn't walking like I should have been and so they took me in to see a neurologist who confirmed what I had,” Gabriel said. “From there, I wore a leg brace on my right leg up until my fourteenth birthday. The hardest part is growth in general and the side effects that brings.”

Gabriel and his parents, however, were not going to let this diagnosis hold him back from doing what he loved.

“I'm lucky because my cerebral palsy is not as severe,” Gabriel said. “So, my parents just shoved me in every sport there was beginning at a young age. I played basketball, t-ball, soccer, all of it. But I eventually fell in love with soccer.”

His passion for soccer grew over the years from the time he started in first grade through intermediate and high school.

“My dad played soccer his whole childhood and I love sharing that interest in the sport with him,” Gabriel said. “I was involved in several club teams and joined the Clear Creek High School team.”

When he was 13, Gabriel was invited by the USA National Paralympic coach to a camp in California to play with other teens with cerebral palsy.

“It was eye opening to me because before that I'd never really clicked with someone that had cerebral palsy,” Gabriel said. “It changed my perspective on living with a disability because a lot of people live with it differently than I do. It really helped me grow as a person.”

This experience sparked a new passion for Gabriel to unite kids with cerebral palsy in the Houston area.

“I found out about CP Soccer, which started in New York a few years ago,” he said. “It gives soccer players with cerebral palsy a better chance to play in a more even environment where you don't have to compete against able-bodied kids and are at a disadvantage.”CP Soccer

According to their website, CP Soccer is a non-profit organization with a mission to build a nationwide soccer league for kids who are affected by cerebral palsy, stroke or traumatic brain injury. The league was the first of its kind in the United States.

“I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Gabriel said. “In 2018, my parents and I worked hard to bring a league to Houston. Keith Johnson, who has played 101 games with the Paralympic team, coaches in the Woodlands and we have a team that I coach in this area.”

Their goal is to bring kids together who may not have a chance of competing in the recreation leagues initially and train them gain the skills they need to succeed.

“We also have some kids who are just there for therapy and that’s what we want, to be a place for anyone struggling to know they aren’t alone and have a support system,” Gabriel said. “We have around 12 kids currently involved in the Houston league.”

Gabriel has also spoken at medical conferences and hospitals throughout Houston to spread awareness of CP Soccer and the benefits of sports for those with cerebral palsy.

“A lot of doctors want to limit kids getting into sports because they don’t want them getting hurt, which is understandable,” Gabriel said. “But with CP Soccer we are creating an outlet where they can join a team and be safe.”

Even during a pandemic, Gabriel and his family still found new ways to connect with their members.

“We would do virtual Zoom practices with kids where they could mimic what the coach was doing on the screen in their backyards,” Gabriel said. “It was great still connecting with them through all that we went through this past year. We hope to reach more kids in Houston as well to join.”

Over the years, Gabriel has never focused on what he couldn’t do or what others say. He attributes this mindset to the support of his parents.

“Remember the people that made you would be some of my best advice,” he said. “I really owe my parents a lot for all they have done for me. They taught me to not take no for an answer. Because if you tell me no or that I can’t do something just because I have a disability, I am going to prove you wrong.”

Gabriel will attend Clemson University in the fall to play Paralympic soccer and major in engineering.

To learn more about CP Soccer and ways to get involved, visit www.cpsoccer.us.

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