When João Vicente was just 20 months old, he collapsed after having a stroke. A rare autoimmune disorder caused it, and as Joao recovered, doctors discovered he also had cerebral palsy, inhibiting his ability to walk independently. As he grew into a happy, curious and adrenaline-seeking boy he held a simple dream — to skateboard.
“I tried for a long time to replace the desire for skateboarding with other tools. He rode him on a tricycle to the skate rides, but that was not what he wanted,” mom Lau Patrón of Porto Alegre, Brazil, told TODAY Parents via email.
So she searched for ways to allow João to skate and discovered Skate Anima, a collaboration between physiotherapist Stevan Pinto and psychologist Daniel Paniagua, both skateboarders who wanted to give children of all abilities the chance to enjoy the sport. They build adapted skateboards that fit the need of each child, giving them a chance to coast down ramps and careen across the pavement with abandon.
“It is a very powerful and beautiful work. It is necessary,” said Patrón, a diversity activist and writer.
This week a video of João using his modified skateboard has gone viral. His skateboard has a frame around it keeping him upright and secure. Patrón runs and pushes him as he excitedly points to the ramps he wants to summit while he squeals in delight. A gigantic smile spreads across his face as he rides his skateboard. This moment of pure glee has moved many.
One woman shared on Instagram:
"Beautiful humans do exist."
Another said: "Look at this awesome mom."
But Patrón believes the video resonates with so many because of her son's unadulterated joy.
“It is so thrilling to see a boy like João skateboarding, happy, full of life, because we live in a sick society where we often forget the purpose of being here,” she said. "I am so grateful and touched by the love that is coming to us."
She said his skateboard was originally designed by Ricardo Oliveira, a professional skateboarder who wanted to be able to skate with his daughter. He then shared his idea with others so that children like João could skateboard.
“I don’t know Ricardo but I have a deep admiration for him,” she said.
While so many praised her and some even calling her “mother of the year,” Patrón believes this is simply what parents do.
“I love sports and I love my son, who loves to experience the world and life so damn much,” Patrón said. "He's a boy like any other, and this story is about that."
She also hopes the video shows why inclusion remains important for people with disabilities.
“May João's smile wake up other people,” she said. “Diversity is our strength.”