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Braylon O’Neill is just like any other sports-loving child his age — except this 6-year-old got to star in an inspiring Super Bowl commercial that focused on what his parents call the boy’s “diffability.”
Braylon was born without his tibia and fibula bones in both legs. He also has syndactylism on his left has hand, which means three fingers are fused together.
“He has the abilities, they're just different,” said his mom Kelli O’Neill. “And often he's the one who shows us what that different way is going to be. But he is differently-abled. We don't see him as disabled.”
Shortly after Braylon was born, doctors amputated his lower legs to give him the best chance possible for mobility with the use of prosthesis. The Super Bowl ad featuring Braylon shows the boy actively playing sports with artificial legs crafted with the help of Microsoft technology.
Today, Braylon has two sets of legs: One for walking and the other for running. Both allow the precocious and energetic youngster to play baseball, golf and other sports. It also allowed him to challenge TODAY's Natalie Morales to a race.
"You're going down!" he told her, successfully predicting her loss and winning a $10 bet in the process. Natalie paid up a few days later when the two met again at the Challenge Athletes Foundation gala, which she co-hosted with Willie Geist.
The organization has helped pay for Braylon’s set of running legs, which are not covered by insurance.
“It’s through the Challenge Athletes Foundation that Braylon is, every other year, able to get these amazing running legs,” his mom said. “Without these he wouldn't be able to run and hop and skip the way that he is able to in the running legs.”
When he’s not running around, Braylon participates in speaking engagements at schools. He said he gets a lot of questions about baseball – and his legs.
“They say, ‘How do you take them off?’” he said, and then casually demonstrated how he does so. “I just push this button.”
The boy’s attitude — or perhaps casualness — about his physical differences is what catches people’s attention.
“We always talk about how he's special, not because his legs are different, but because of how he chooses to live his life with his legs,” Kelli said. “And it's really that spirit, I think, at least as a mom, what makes him so special to us. And I think to others.”
His father, Mike O’Neill, said his son continues to teach him and others around them about putting things in perspective.
“Those little things that happen to you – you maybe get cut off on the road, or your shoes untied. Those little things really don’t matter, it’s how you take it,” he said.
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