When it comes to determination, and succeeding with Cerebral Palsy, you don’t have to look further than Ben Cummings-Jackson. This 24-year-old native of Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania is thriving in life, fueled by a passion to inspire others with or without CP to chase their dreams. Doctors said that Ben, born with Spastic Athetotic Cerebral Palsy, would likely live confined to a wheelchair. They also said he wouldn’t walk, attend school, nor would he have a normal social life.
Ben was an accomplished high school wrestler, a fitness buff, and a motivation speaker, sharing his story of courage and survival with others. You can find Ben speaking to children, communities, or even professional sports teams about the desire to succeed. He gives hope to all kids living with Cerebral Palsy that they can accomplish their dreams.
We asked him a few questions about how he has come so far, and what drives his ambition and motivation. Oh, by the way, it’s not uncommon for Ben to cycle 25 miles in a day.
Children’s Cerebral Palsy Movement: Hello Ben! Thank you for sharing your story with the CCPM audience, to inspire others with CP, and parents of younger children with Cerebral Palsy that they can break barriers. Tell us about yourself.
Ben Cummings-Jackson: My name is Benjamin Cummings-Jackson, but most people call me Ben Jackson for short. I am 24 years old; I live with Spastic Athetotic Cerebral Palsy. I’m a former wrestler at Pocono Mountain West High School; I was honored to have an award named after me called the “Ben Jackson Courage Award” in 2011.
In 2014, I was the face of Gatorade’s #WinFromWithin series. The campaign has been seen around the world with more than one million views on YouTube. It captures a day in the life of my training, where I persevere despite the physical impediments that may prevent me from succeeding. #WinFromWithin has gone on to earn three CLIO Sports Awards, which include two gold and one sliver trophies. Currently, I am a Motivational Speaker, and I have spoken at the 2015 Beyond Sport International Summit hosted by sports’ top leaders, from Adam Silver and Gary Bettman to Rob Manfred and Scott O’Neil. I have also spoken to the Baltimore Ravens, NY Giants, Rutgers University and the Brooklyn Nets.
CCPM: As a sufferer of CP, what has been your biggest struggle or biggest fear?
Ben Cummings-Jackson: My bigger struggle living with Spastic Athetotic Cerebral Palsy must be the daily fight in which my body goes through. I have countless spasms throughout my entire day, starting from the moment I wake-up, and continuing to the moment that I go to sleep. During my day since my muscles are tense, I usually must stretch them periodically throughout the course of my day in order to make it through an entire day.
CCPM: Ben, what would you call your biggest success?
Ben Cummings-Jackson: My biggest success has to be helping and inspiring others. Helping others has always been a passion of mine, in high school when I wrestled for Pocono Mountain West in Pennsylvania, more than any win, I took the most pride in helping and inspiring my teammates. I wasn’t the biggest wrestler, or the fastest athlete on the team, but I knew what I was good at, and that inspiring my teammates to perform at their highest level when on the wrestling mat.
CCPM: Ben, what are you most proud of yourself for?
Ben Cummings-Jackson: I am most proud of myself for not giving up on myself, living with Spastic Athetotic Cerebral Palsy is both mentally and physically exhausting, but I don’t give up on myself. When my goals seem too far to reach because of my Cerebral Palsy, I just say to myself, “I can do this!” I accept my challenges by turning them into daily victories, and every day brings a new obstacle.
CCPM: Do you have any advice for other people living with CP?
Ben Cummings-Jackson: My advice to other people that live with Cerebral Palsy would be, don’t be afraid to fail. If there’s a challenge you want to take on, go for it, life wouldn’t be interesting with failure; I do things all the time that I’m not good at, such as boxing, my left hand isn’t as quick as my right hand, but instead of being discouraged and giving up, I put on a pair of boxing gloves, and I work on it.
CCPM: Tell us about your support system. What did you have? Was there anything that could have helped you?
Ben Cummings-Jackson: The support of my family has played a huge part in my life, without them I don’t think I would be the same man that I am today. The support of the amazing community I have around me is second to none, the support of the Poconos is what lets me know that I can change the world.
CCPM: What do you hope for yourself? What barriers would you like to break?
Ben Cummings-Jackson: I hope to inspire both kids and adults around the world living with Cerebral Palsy, by showing them that although life maybe limited, that doesn’t mean that you should live less of a life than anyone else. Barriers are meant to be broken, so I strive to break the barriers around Cerebral Palsy, it may take me a little longer, but I’ll get there.
CCPM: If you could share a message with everyone, what is one thing you’d like the world to know about Cerebral Palsy?
Ben Cummings-Jackson: Just because someone has Cerebral Palsy doesn’t mean they are any less of a person.
CCPM: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My name is Benjamin Cummings-Jackson, I am son, brother, athlete, Motivational Speaker and I have Spastic Athetotic Cerebral Palsy.