Father’s Day inspiration: Why one dad pushed his son’s wheelchair in the marching band

“Love is the fuel that overcomes the fear of penalty. Love moves the obligation of duty into opportunity to serve others. Love is energizing and love never ends.” – Edie Varley

Determination. Resilience. Willpower. Vision. Courage.

These are some of the characteristics required to overcome adversity, take the next right step forward and thrive in life.

Yet, beneath those brawny traits exists a singular, common denominator, liberating us to overcome personal adversity, unite with others and become far better versions of ourselves: love.

Love allows us to rise above our challenges – and it empowers us to help others rise above theirs, too.

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Few understand this truth better than the Hughes family from Louisville, Kentucky, and their son, Patrick Henry.

Born without eyes, and with arms and legs that would never fully function, Patrick Henry Hughes entered this world with far more challenges than most.

His family refused to let him be defined by the things he could not do. Instead, they chose to celebrate the many gifts he possessed, rejoice in the life that was perfectly his and stoke his greatest passion: music.

Patrick Henry Hughes, who uses a wheelchair and is blind, played trumpet in the University of Louisville marching band. (Photo: patrickhenryhughes.com)

From his earliest days, Patrick Henry exuded a deep love of music. He took to piano early and by age 2 was taking song requests from friends and family.

As he grew, Patrick Henry expanded his skill and began to play the trumpet. By high school, he was so gifted that he was invited to be part of the University of Louisville marching band.

Father took notes in son’s classes

But how could a trumpet player who uses a wheelchair and is blind possibly join a marching band?

Patrick Henry had a father who loved him well.

Patrick John challenged his son to continually grow personally and to never make excuses. When presented with the opportunity to join the band, he encouraged his son to go for it and did everything imaginable to support that effort.

He worked the night shift so he could attend class with Patrick and take notes. He took him to daily marching band practice, learned all the steps and pushed his son’s wheelchair so Patrick could march with the rest of the band.

In other words: Patrick John loved his son.

Love fuels strength to serve

Love allows each of us to discover strength we never knew we possessed, the ability to impact others in a way we never knew we could, and the potential to change the world one life at a time.

My friends, as we march into summer, let’s focus less on the challenges we face. Let’s focus more on celebrating the opportunities we possess, those marching with us, and the remarkable chance to be part of this orchestra of life.

And happy Father’s Day to all the dads and father figures who have stood behind us and pushed us forward. They remind us that life is far less about which instruments we were given and far more about choosing to create beautiful music with the ones we’ve received.

This is your day. Live inspired.

John O’Leary is the author of “In Awe.”

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