Believing You Can: Landon Brown’s Growth Through Adaptive Sports has Set Him on a Path for Success

Landon (right) at Move United’s Hartford Nationals in Hoover, Alabama, in 2023. The Bennett Blazers beat out 43 teams and were named National Champions in the para-athletic series including sports such as powerlifting, archery and paratriathalon. (Move United)

When Landon Brown was almost 2 years old, his parents noticed that he wasn’t meeting his movement milestones.

At Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, he was diagnosed with left-sided hemiparesis, which is a form of cerebral palsy caused by a stroke at birth.

But a now-13-year-old Landon hasn’t let that hold him back. The teen found a passion for sports within Kennedy Krieger’s Bennett Blazers adaptive sports program, where he plays wheelchair basketball, swims and participates in track and field.

One of the best parts of being on the team, Landon says, is working with his coaches, Gerry and Gwena Herman—especially in how they make him feel like any other teen.

“I’m not usually looked at as a ‘normal person,’ and I think that they see me as an, again, ‘normal person,’ and someone who can go achieve beyond what…their limitations may be, and they don’t let their limitations stop them,” he explains. “I think it fills me with a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

Gerry and Gwena Herman have been coaching for more than 40 years—the last 32 here in Baltimore. And since their first meeting with Landon at just 2 years old, he has grown into a confident and capable player, Gwena Herman says.

“He was a pretty shy kid. He was willing to do all the different activities, but if he didn’t think he could be successful at something, he would kind of shy away [from it],” she says. “Through the years, he just gained utmost confidence in himself and his abilities.”

Landon has shown growth in athletic ability, confidence and leadership—all benefits that come with sports regardless of physical disabilities, the Hermans explain.

“He’s a true leader now that he’s a little bit older, and he works with the younger kids, and he’s able to encourage them,” Gwena Herman says.

While Landon plays many sports with the Bennett Blazers, he says soccer is his sport of choice, just like it is for his father.

“That was, I think, the first sport I tried out, and I took an instant liking to it, and then with the disability, it kinda shifted my goals a little,” Landon says.

Landon plays soccer in Ellicott City with CP Soccer, a club for young athletes with ambulatory cerebral palsy, stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Bob Andrews, his Mid Atlantic CP Soccer coach, says Landon has impressed him at every turn.

“He just keeps growing exponentially. I mean, he went from doing like, for example, a track doing short races to now he goes all the way up to the 1,500 meters, and he just keeps accepting and overcoming the challenge,” Andrews says. “He’s willing to do the work and apply himself fully, so at this point nothing surprises us. I mean, he is unbelievable.”

According to Andrews, practicing and playing together helps the kids in much the same way physical therapy does. This is intentional, as many of the drills and exercises organized by the coaches have a basis in the physical therapies the athletes are already involved in.

“Landon and some of the older kids will always kind of prepare and take some of the younger kids and kind of, you know, show them the ropes if you will—he’s been fantastic in that regard,” Andrews says.

Landon’s goal is to make the U.S. Men’s CP Soccer National Team. On his way there, he has advice for other kids like him who want to succeed in sports or academics.

“It’s the belief that you can do it [that] is going to be the first step to actually accomplishing that goal,” he says.


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