Despite obstacles, local boy's drive to succeed never flags [Rodgers Forge]

Towson Times

Luca Auburn, of Regester Avenue, is a 15-year-old miracle.

Luca experienced a traumatic brain injury at birth with an initial prognosis of persistent vegetative state. But the brain is an amazing and mysterious organ; Luca defied all medical, intellectual, and social expectations. He thrived throughout his early years and did a good job and kept up with the toddler set. Then, in February 2014, Luca was diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a rare and severe form of Epilepsy.

"Luca is brave and handles his condition with grace; his drive to succeed despite the odds is admirable," according to his dad, Jorma.

Luca attends The Harbour School in Owings Mills and has all the same interests as a boy his age would: super heroes, Star Wars, basketball, video games…and swimming. But not just any swimming. Competitive Olympic-style swimming.

Luca's inaugural swim for Special Olympics in 2016 at Towson University earned him two silver medals — one in the 25 meter and one in the 4 x 25 meter unified freestyle relay. Luca began experiencing dizziness and trouble walking last fall. "We were concerned about the mobility issues and the seizures and having him swim for the Special Olympics this year, [but] we sat down, asked him if he wanted to participate, and he said he could do it and wanted to swim," his mother, Hiteshi, said.

The Auburns are a close-knit family and Luca and younger brother, Stefan, are the best of friends. With their support (and much cheering on the sidelines), Luca swam in two qualifiers at the end of April — the first at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and the second at Gilman. He ended the events with two first place finishes, one second place finish, and a sixth place in the relay event. Next stop, Towson University for the 2017 Special Olympics June 9–11.

"Though he has had some setbacks with his swimming this year he has never given up hope and is continuing to impress us and his coaches," according to Hiteshi. When you hear the celebrations from Towson University that weekend in June, be sure to send positive thoughts in the direction of the athletes competing and remember their motto, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." Good luck, Luca!

Rodgers Forge Elementary School has a new outdoor classroom that allows students to learn, observe and integrate nature into the school setting. Luke Rowland, the son of vice principal Michele Rowland, built the outdoor classroom to earn the honor of becoming an Eagle Scout. The classroom was dedicated May 1 and included a special recycled art wall made by the students of art teacher Karen Kotapish. As an administrator of Rodgers Forge and as the mom of the Eagle Scout who constructed the classroom, Michele Rowland said she has, "a deep appreciation for all the work that went into making this happen from the PTA, staff, students and community. It truly took a village to make the outdoor classroom come to life."

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