Mentor Spotlight: Where Is Eddie Now?

By June Converse.

In last week’s post, we introduced you to Eddie Martinez. Eddie’s desire and willingness to learn the unicycle was one of the first steps in Lauren’s journey to develop Camp Abilities. Eddie represented everything Camp Abilities would eventually encompass — ability not disability; challenging ourselves and our children; finding a way instead of an excuse; speaking up for yourself and not taking no for an answer. Believe You Can Achieve. 

We wanted to know – and to share – where Eddie’s journey has taken him. In his own words, allow me to introduce Eddie Martinez and listen to what he remembers about his unicycle experience. 

Eddie is inside a gymnasium riding a unicycle independently. He is wearing a helmet and one arm is in front of him and the other behind him as he balances on the bike.

My name is Eddie Martinez Jr. and I am DeafBlind since birth. I communicate by using Tactile American Sign Language (TASL) and ProTactile (PT). I was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut. I attended a mainstream public elementary school from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade. Afterward, I attended Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts from middle School through high school. 

When I was a young boy, I used to go to a circus every year with my family members. I really enjoyed watching the clowns perform lots of ridiculous tricks and ride unicycles. The circus actually inspired me big time but at the same time I was puzzled about how a clown could handle his/her balance on only one wheel. From that point, I dreamed of learning how to ride a unicycle. 

When I was at the age of fourteen years old, I met my physical education instructor, Lauren Lieberman. Occasionally, I caught Dr. Lieberman riding her personal unicycle. I suddenly looked back at those circus events. Thus, I stopped Dr. Lieberman. We were chatting for a while which led me to inquire about her teaching me to ride. 

At first, she resisted and thought that I was unable to handle my own balance on her unicycle. I had to continue to nag Dr. Lieberman from time to time. We did argue lightly in a nice way. Finally, I popped up a straight statement to Dr. Lieberman about her attitude by saying, “Hey Dr. Lieberman, you should give me a chance to learn and prove you wrong. In fact, I believe in a wide range of abilities and that I could learn anything without my DeafBlindness stopping me.”

Dr. Lieberman finally granted me an opportunity to take several lessons on her unicycle after school hours. Hence, we had a blast and laughed together while I worked hard to build my great balance to be able to ride on only one wheel. It took a few months for me to accomplish my dream of riding a unicycle. During all our lessons, Dr. Lieberman was speechless and was surprised with my big ability of doing and playing any kind of sports, including unicycling. Therefore, I actually proved her wrong and led her to a different perspective of people with big spectrum disabilities in sports. 

Today, I still have great memories of Dr. Lieberman teaching me how to ride the unicycle. My ability changed her own knowledge and improved her ability to encourage people with spectrum disabilities to play any sport that may be of interest. 

After Perkins, I attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. and earned two (2) Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Communication Studies. I am still friends with Dr. Lieberman.

Eddie and Lauren standing on the outdoor track. Eddie is holding onto his unicycle while Lauren reaches for his hand.

Eddie learned to ride a unicycle. Lauren learned never to assume someone can’t and instead to help prove they can. 

It’s been 32 years and Lauren still tells the story of Eddie and the unicycle with excitement in her voice and light in her eyes. Lauren taught Eddie to ride the one-wheeled machine. Eddie taught Lauren when you Believe, You Can Achieve. She takes that message and her memories of Eddie into every Camp Abilities experience. 

Thank you, Eddie, for sharing your dream and your accomplishments. You are an inspiration to all involved with Camp Abilities. 

~Believe You Can Achieve~