ONLY ON WFXR: Charli’s story

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Overcoming adversity – that’s what one little boy is teaching us.

WFXR’s Delaney Hall introduces us to a young boy named Charli who proves it doesn’t matter what life throws at you, you can do whatever you set your mind to.

Karate class line up can be an intimidating feat for any student, but one of the students in the classroom is no ordinary 6-year-old.

Charli Celestin Carpenter, a 6-year-old boy from Haiti born without any arms or legs.

“She said he was born without arms or legs. I couldn’t fathom what she was saying,” said Vanessa Carpenter, Charli’s mom.

Vanessa and Tom, Charli’s guardians and acting parents in the United States, learned about Charli in 2012 after a phone call from an orphanage.

“But went, got on the very next plane, went down to Haiti and sure enough Charli was with his birth mom.”

Born in a village so small it doesn’t have a name, and to a single mother, Charli was seen as flawed in Haiti. Both him and his mother had to fight to stay alive.

He was denied from six orphanages leading his mother to find help across the world.

“The orphanage directors couldn’t keep Charli safe with Haitian workers so nobody would take him.”

Now in the United States, Charli has found freedom.

“I just never know what’s coming next. They’ll be things like, ‘Oh, well he can’t do that. And Ill ask him if he can and just goes, “Ya, mommy!” and he just can. The teachers say the same thing at school. 

School. A place where Charli excels in as well. He’s learned how to write with his arms and modify his movements to keep up with his classmates.

“Literally anything he sees somebody else do, you can watch him figure it out in his head and he’ll do it. He’ll figure out a way to do it.”

It’s a life skill that has rubbed off in karate class.

“I’ve had to learn his limitations and abilities as we go,” said Carrie Johnson, Charli’s karate teacher.

“Charli showed up for class, and I said, ‘Okay, here we go.’ We’ll figure this out together because I didn’t have a lot of preparation for that.”

Carrie has been Charli’s teacher for three months, and says he’s made her a better teacher.

“It was a learning process for me. We do work with students with different types of disabilities. This is the first person I’ve worked with with Charli’s obstacles.”

He’s given her a new perspective on her job.

“It has been a pleasure and privilege to get to work with him. To figure out how to modify our techniques to suit Charli.”

With the current laws, Charli doesn’t qualify for medical insurance which means Vanessa and Tom pay out of pocket for everything. 

With 18 other adoped, biological, and guardianship children of their own, they’ve relied on generous donors and community members to help cover Charli’s medical costs.

Charli stands on his own feet using his prosthetics, but takes a break for his real passion – sports.

“He played baseball last summer,” said Vanessa.

“He goes to Boy Scouts. We play soccer with him on the floor and him kicking the ball.”

Just like in sports, they’re teaching Charli it’s not the score that matters, but how you play the game.

“Just like karate, we’re teaching him to have a very positive perspective and outlook on everything. Always a shining light.”

“You can do anything, can’t you?”

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