People born with disorders and special needs not only face a lifetime of health complications but, sadly, they can also face a lifetime of bullying just because they’re a little different.
After being born with a rare genetic disorder that affected his face and development, a California man has spent his life overcoming a variety of health obstacles. Because of the way he looks, it has also made him a target for bullying. However, after a recent attack left him terrified, his favorite team found a way to show him he’s never alone…
When Sylvia and Joe Cadena met their newborn son 27 years ago, they instantly fell in love with their perfect baby boy, who they named Michael. However, after his birth, doctors had some difficult news to break to the new parents.
Doctors explained to the California couple that their newborn had been born with a rare genetic disorder called Apert syndrome. As a result of the genetic disorder, bones in Michael’s skull had fused prematurely, which stops the skull from growing normally…
The Health Complications
Because bones in Michael’s skull were already fused, it affected the shape of his head and face. Over the years, Michael has faced a variety of health complications caused by the genetic disorder and has had to undergo several surgeries.
A Target For Bullies
However, health complications aren’t the only thing Michael has had to overcome as he’s grown up. Because Apert syndrome affects the shape of the head and face, Michael looks different and has been a target for bullies his entire life…
Standing Up Against The Bullies
As a child, Michael’s parents taught him to never let bullies push him around because he’s different and to always stand up for himself. “We told him, ‘Don’t be a bully and don’t be bullied,’” Joe Cadena said about the mentality they taught Michael to have.
Still A Target
Even though Michael’s development was delayed during adolescence, he decided he wanted to get a job as an adult at a local thrift store, Savers, in Riverside, California. Even though he was now an adult, Joe and Sylvia warned him that he may still face bullies while out in public on his own…
“We’ve taught Michael to be careful out there, not to talk to strangers,” said Sylvia, who is supportive of anything her son wants to do but also wants to make sure he is safe. Then 1 day in April 2018, Michael saw for himself what his parents had warned him about.
A Trip To Target
On April 12, Michael took a bus and then rode his scooter to work. However, when he arrived in the area earlier than his shift started, he decided to stop at the Target nearby. Unfortunately, he didn’t even make it inside the store before someone started harassing him…
Looks Like Trouble
While walking up to the entrance, Michael saw a couple of men loitering outside and he immediately knew they were going to be trouble for him. “He knew they were up to no good,” Sylvia explained. As Michael got closer to the entrance, he tried to make it past them but 1 of the men stepped out in front of him.
Standing His Ground
Michael is a diehard Los Angeles Dodgers fan and had been wearing his favorite Dodgers baseball hat, which he wears everywhere he goes. “One guy approached and said, ‘Give me your hat,’ and Michael said, ‘No’,” Sylvia said…
The man told Michael to hand over his hat once again, so Michael made his way into the store to get help from an employee. But the man followed Michael inside, and before he could get help, the man pushed him, grabbed the hat, and walked out.
Filing A Report
“I was scared and nervous and frightened,” Michael said. “My heart was pounding. They shoved me.” Even though Michael was afraid, he went to the store’s security to tell them what happened. They immediately called the police and Michael filed a reported for a robbery when they arrived at the scene…
Speaking His Mind
“He did the right thing,” Joe said after the incident. “He knows what to do. I’m really proud that that day he went into the store and asked for help,” Sylvia added. “Proud for speaking up and saying what was in his heart and mind.”
Turning To Social Media
Police opened up an investigation into the robbery and Sylvia posted about the incident online in the hopes that it would help the investigation and lead to the thief. The post quickly spread around the community, however, and the response left the entire family speechless…
An Unexpected Response
After people heard what happened to Michael, people around Riverside started sending Michael new LA Dodgers hats. In addition to hats, someone even gave the family tickets to see the Dodgers play the Miami Marlins, who they beat 2-1.
A Dream Come True
Soon enough, the Dodgers heard about what happened to their devoted fan. Not only did they give Michael and his family free tickets to a home game against the Philadelphia Phillies, but they also invited him to throw the ceremonial first pitch…
Overcoming Yet Another Obstacle
For Michael, this was a dream come true. Even though he had never actually thrown a ball because some of his fingers are fused together, another symptom of Apert syndrome, he immediately went out to the backyard and started practicing with his dad.
A Life-Changing Experience
“He’s the kind of kid if you tell him he can’t do something, he will,” Michael’s sister, Christina Archibald, said. On the day of the game, Michael got to meet his favorite players and hang out on the field before throwing out the first pitch of the game to his favorite player, Cody Bellinger…
The Opening Pitch
“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 said. “He made out like a champ. He’s on cloud 9 right now. He’s beyond words,” Joe added after the game.
Bad Things Leading To Good
“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,” Sylvia said. “We’re very excited to host him,” said Naomi Rodriguez, vice president of external affairs and community relations for the Dodgers. “We really wanted to tell him that we love him, and he’s not alone.”