Living an Others-Centered Life: Bradley Tripp’s Story
by Dale Reeves
Twenty years ago Bradley Tripp began his journey on this earth. He entered this world fighting to survive, but he was a strong and stubborn little guy who had many people praying for him. He was blessed with a positive outlook on life and has been raised in a home that loves Jesus. It’s his faith, friends, and family that keep him going. In his mother Missy’s words, “Bradley enjoys helping kids and older adults because he knows it makes them happy and that, in turn, makes him happy.”
Like everyone else right now, Bradley misses getting to interact with others during this stay-at-home season. You see, a big part of his life has to do with the volunteering he does with various organizations. Bradley does not approach life with a “woe is me” perspective, but rather a “How can I help?” attitude. He loves helping others through various opportunities, and even though he can’t visit with others right now due to the coronavirus, he has been able to send some encouraging letters and cards to his friends.
Adapting to His World
Bradley and his twin sister Emily were born in Cincinnati at 26 weeks (3½ months early) at Good Samaritan Hospital. Due to the prematurity, Bradley was diagnosed with an intraventricular hemorrhage (head bleed). He spent eleven weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and then was discharged home. Only time would tell of the lasting effects of this trauma on his brain. Missy recalls, “Since he was a twin and Toby and I could compare his development with Emily, we could see that he had some delays in rolling over, sitting up, and crawling.
By the time he was one year old, our doctor diagnosed him with cerebral palsy. When he turned three, he attended a special needs preschool for children with physical disabilities called The Perlman Center, where he received OT, PT, and speech therapy for three years and then entered into the Mason City School district for regular schooling with an aide by his side at all times.”
Bradley attended regular classes at Mason City Schools until he graduated in 2018. His cerebral palsy affects all four extremities. He cannot sit or stand independently and requires help with all activities of daily living. He uses a wheelchair at all times. Missy comments, “We don’t put any limitations on him, but sometimes that means we need to adapt our world to his. He is capable of talking (all the time), using his arms for feeding, typing (slowly), and playing video games with a specially adapted video controller. He loves people and being around people, so we try to make sure he has the opportunity to be involved in as much as he likes when it comes to socialization and building relationships.”
Bradley’s parents were very aware that there would be many challenges ahead and they knew life for him would be very different from what others might define as “normal.” But they didn’t know how active Bradley would be, how many friends he has who truly love him and love being around him, how he lights up a room when he enters it, how inspirational he would be with his soccer friends and family, how he tries his best at everything and never gives up, how he’s very competitive in everything he does, and how he would play soccer in his wheelchair.
Bradley has received many academic awards from school, including one of his most memorable awards, for being a student coach, from the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) for “Courageous Student Award” in 2018. When he received this award, all the athletes at Mason High School and their family members were in attendance and they gave him a standing ovation.
Since his freshman year in high school, Bradley has been the “Number 1 Fan” with the Mason women’s soccer team. He began working as an assistant coach for the ladies his sophomore year and continues in that role today (six years later). His responsibilities include being a major source of motivation, lifting the players up, encouraging them during workout sessions, cheering them on from the sidelines during games, and giving post-game pep talks. Bradley has been very bold in sharing his faith with the team because he cares for them not only as friends, but as those for whom Christ died. Most of his post-game speeches are about Jesus.
Serving Others Joyfully
Bradley says, “My new favorite verse in the Bible is Colossians 3:2, which challenges us to, ‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’ (NIV).” Bradley understands that he was created by God to help bring joy into the lives of other people, and he loves sharing his love for Christ with others. In addition to being an assistant coach with the MHS women’s soccer team, Bradley also volunteers at Mason Early Childhood Center (MECC), a couple of hours one day a week. He primarily helps second-grade students with reading and vocabulary.
Another day of the week he volunteers at the Perlman Center for three hours. He wants to give back to the center that helped him as a young child. He helps with preschool-aged kids in a classroom setting with an OT, PT, speech therapist, and teacher. As a role model to young kids with special needs Bradley demonstrates to them that he can be happy and function in life like all the other adults in the room. He loves working with them on crafts, during library time, and in outdoor play.
Bradley and his mom Missy also love volunteering together at Otterbein Retirement Center in the skilled nursing unit for several hours one day a week. In the summer, they love helping the group activities coordinator in carrying out planned activities for the day—such as crafts, music, or games. They also spend time with residents talking with them, listening to their memories and war hero stories.
They also take the residents on walks in their wheelchairs around the buildings so they can get out and see something other than the room and the hallways they live in. Missy remarks, “So many of the residents don’t get any visitors and we love to love on them. We go see model trains, Christmas trees, and other parts of the retirement center. In the summer we take them out to the ponds and feed the fish. They love seeing Bradley as he lights up the room with his smile and laugh.”
Another one of Bradley’s favorite Scripture verses is Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV).
Some of the things Bradley delights in include playing video games with his friends, aquatics with friends, attending church, doing lunch prayer time with pastor Trevor during the quarantine, vacationing on Hilton Head Island, and eating at Empanadas Aqui in Mason.
One of the things Bradley is missing most during this COVID-19 quarantine is the time he spends playing wheelchair soccer with Cincinnati TOPSoccer. He has played this sport for eleven years. And, if you ask him who his favorite sports team in town is, he will immediately tell you, “FC Cincinnati soccer!”
When asked what kind of faith lessons God has shown the Tripp family, Missy responds, “God has taught us and is still teaching us that no matter what plans we make, he is always in control and we need to trust him. We look to Psalm 91 and remember that he is our refuge, our protector, and will be with us in times of trouble. We are just a small piece of the puzzle but God sees the whole picture. He knows the plans for us and we need to be obedient and look to him in all things. Admittedly, some days we fall short and often need reminders, but we are so grateful that he is ever-present. We learn when our faith is tested, we become a stronger family.”
What encouragement would Bradley and his family offer to others who might be facing difficulties right now? Missy offers, “We wouldn’t say that every day has been easy, but we would say to take it one day at a time. We have learned to be grateful for the small steps and achievements along the way. We don’t see ourselves as a family that struggles with a disability. We look at how God has created our special family and been grateful for all the amazing people we have met along the way that have shaped our lives and added to our happiness. This is the incredible journey God has us on and we are living out that story.”
Whether we are continuing to navigate this viral complexity or are on the other side of this pandemic, Missy concludes, “I would encourage you to trust God in all situations. Focus on what can be done, not on what can’t be done. With God’s help, always know that you can do more than you think you can.”