Meet our Growing Up Cowboy winner: Kaleb Dorr, 6, of Wagoner, Oklahoma! This little cowboy with a whole lot of try has overcome adversity with a positive attitude, consideration for others, and a zest for the West.
Born with Thrombocytopenia–absent Radius (TAR) Syndrome—a blood disorder characterized by the absence of the radius bone in the forearm—Kaleb might have shorter arms than the average cowboy, but that hasn’t stopped him from roping, riding, and ranching.
“Kaleb and his dad rope the dummy four or five nights a week,” says his mother, Kim. “He thinks he’s mastered heading, and now he’s working on heeling. Even though his arms are only half the length they should be, he’s managed to figure out a way to make it work. He isn’t roping off a horse quite yet, but I feel it coming!”
When he’s not practicing his roping skills, Kaleb enjoys helping Dad feed and fix fence on the family’s 60-acre ranch, and spends plenty of time in the saddle on his Shetland pony, Shorty.
“Shorty takes care of Kaleb,” says Kim. “Even though Shorty can be a little spitfire, once Kaleb gets on, Shorty will drop head, put his ears forward, and behave himself.”
Despite having a tough start (Kaleb has had more than 10 surgeries and 200 plasma transfusions in his short life), Kaleb hasn’t let adversity dull his shining personality.
“He’s never met a stranger—he’ll talk to anybody!” Kim laughs. “He’s very outgoing and charismatic. He just has the type of personality that you remember.”
Truly embodying the cowboy spirit, Kaleb not only has the strength to persevere through his own difficulties, but he finds it within himself to help others as well.
“If a kid gets hurt, he’s right there helping,” explains Kim. “He’s knows what it’s like to be afraid and in pain, so he likes to help those who are going through the same thing.”
Kaleb’s positive attitude and strength have certainly touched a lot of hearts. With the help of the Western Wishes Foundation (westernwishes.org, a program that helps children faced with challenges achieve their Western dreams), he’s been able to attend events around the country and meet many of his cowboy heroes, including Trevor Brazile, George Strait, Rich Skelton, Casey Colletti, Bob Feist, Chris Cox, and Larry Mahan. In turn, he’s a hero to many of them as well.
“His indomitable spirit is inspiring,” said bull riding icon Tuff Hedeman.
Tuff, in particular, has a special place in Kaleb’s heart.
“Kaleb has watched 8 Seconds his whole life,” says Kim, “and when he had the opportunity to meet Tuff, he identified him right away. His eyes lit up, he ran up to Tuff, and gave him a big hug!”
Watching Kaleb’s appreciation for the small successes in life is certainly a humbling reminder to not take things for granted.
“His proudest moments are when he accomplishes the little things,” says Kim. “Things like climbing up a ladder on the playground…It’s the little things that you don’t even think about—things like putting on clothes—the smallest things to us mean the biggest things to him.”
If his first six years are any indication, Kaleb isn’t going to let anything get in the way of accomplishing his dreams, which are, right now, to become a team roper.
“He wants to rodeo,” says Kim. He goes to ropings with his dad and helps with the chutes. Having TAR hasn’t slowed him down one bit.
“His first stuffed animal was a horse and he’s been a cowboy ever since. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”