By myFace Development and Events Manager, Savannah Mazda
Adolescence is a tough path for anyone, but for someone with the added complication of a craniofacial difference, it can be a minefield. Many people find solace in their hobbies, their family, their friends, and if they are lucky, a mentor. The relationship between mentor and mentee is a unique and special one, and for some children and teens, having a mentor can make all the difference in the world.
One such myFace patient is Kyle O’Reilly, a young man who is well beloved by his friends and family, and extremely active within the myFace community – he is one of the shining stars of myFace’s annual sponsored walk, Races for Faces. Kyle has Nablus syndrome, an extremely rare condition that is characterized by a mask-like facial appearance, a recessed jaw resulting in speech and feeding dysfunction,and malformed ears resulting in a hearing loss. Kyle is very reserved, but he has an avid interest in sports, which serve as an escape for him when life becomes difficult.
It was Kyle’s interest in sports that lead him to connect with his mentor. Kyle has always loved sports, but Nablus syndrome can also cause contractures in hands and legs, as well as joint deformities and 50% lung function, which limited Kyle’s ability to join sports teams, despite his passion for them. Kyle’s mother, Besty, described Kyle as “struggling with self-image issues,” and said he needed a path to being more confident. Someone to show him just how valuable he was.
“Love and empathy are the pathway to a better world.”
Kyle found just such a mentor in Brian Kriftcher, who works for an organization called Stamford Peace Youth Foundation, where he coaches and mentors as part of a program that includes at-risk inner city youths. Brian was approached by Michael Wiederlight, regional director for Team Up for 1, to introduce a pilot program in Stamford for kids with special needs looking to be part of a sports team. Team Up For 1 engages the sports world by matching children with teams from every competitive level – college, high school and professional. Brian immediately took Kyle under his wing, and taught him that he had tremendous worth. He could see that Kyle needed more responsibility than being the water-boy, and he gave him the responsibility of taking video footage of a local high school team while they played. Together Brian and Kyle analyze the material for future games, and help create college portfolios for the players. According to Brian, “It really has been as impactful for me and our players as it has been for Kyle.” Brian taught Kyle how to film and analyze basketball, and to use his own strengths to take part in sports, and like any good mentor, Brian also learned from Kyle. “People are people, and the differences evaporate.”