Patience Beard is doing what any young woman with an itch to cheer might do at the University of Arkansas. What makes this cheerleader special, though, is that she is lifting spirits at Razorback Stadium on one leg.
Take a couple moments to enjoy this YouTube video posted by HooplaHa, wherein Beard explains her initial struggles and ultimate triumph. At the heart of it lies a fantastic question: What is normal?
As the video relays, Beard is a Division I cheerleader on scholarship who uses a zebra-print prosthetic while cheerleading at Arkansas football games.
Much like the reaction to this wonderful story, Beard having one leg has always been a bigger deal to others than it has been to her. She speaks to remembering her handicap only when she is reminded:
"I had a point in my life when I worried what other people thought about me. It was weird, because looking back on that now, what was I thinking? Even today I forget. I forget all the time that I'm different. Until someone's like, 'Hey, you have a zebra leg.'"
The sophomore has a zebra leg just like we all have physical features or personal characteristics that distinguish us. Beard isn't about to dwell on what she is lacking, though, maneuvering life's road with the ease of someone with two legs.
The human spirit is pretty darn powerful, and it's stories like Beard's or the one of Koni Dole—a high school football player from Montana who returned to the field just a year after losing his leg—that truly deserve our attention and admiration.
As a freshman, Beard was nominated for the Discover Orange Bowl-Football Writers Association of America Courage Award. That 2012 report states she was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency and is now affectionately referred to as "the girl with the zebra leg."
Perhaps we can now refer to her as merely a girl or a cheerleader, because if there's one thing to take from this story, it's that her zebra leg, while fashionable, doesn't define her.
Beard continues to work, play and cheer, just like any college student doing something he or she loves.
Her job is to fire up crowds at the stadium. Well, she has done much better than that—Beard's story will undoubtedly cheer up individuals all over the country.
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