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Hailey Bianco Overcomes Obstacles to Participate in River Forest Athletics

As a child, the ability to walk and run normally is often taken for granted. Many children will never face a disability or issue that affects their ability to run, play, and grow as normal.

Hailey Bianco was one of those children who didn’t learn to walk and run as normal. As a baby she struggled to walk correctly, and without a clue as to why, she was taken to doctors who eventually discovered that her ankle was missing a bone vital for her to walk normally. They offered a surgery which could correct the problem at the age of 6 but would need to be repeated at the age of 12. Given the option, they chose to wait until she was older.

“There was something wrong with my ankles,” explained Bianco. “I wasn’t able to walk right as a baby and no one really knew why.”

Though she struggled with difficulties in the way she walked, Bianco managed to engage in sports and feed her love of competition. Though she put in a lot of practice and effort, she knew she would one day be able to do better.

“Going through sports I wasn’t able to be the best, I was never the fastest,” said Bianco.

But nevertheless, she persisted in her pursuits to join in competition with her peers. She participated in sports while visiting Shriners Children’s Hospital in Chicago from age six to twelve. During these visits she’d receive braces and inserts to aid her in walking. At 12, Bianco found herself heading into the surgery she’d been waiting for, which would utilize a bone from her hip to fix the issues in her ankle.

“The surgery ended up putting me in a wheelchair for a whole summer,” reflected Bianco. “It was weird because of the normally active lifestyle I have.”

Bianco didn’t let the surgery discourage her, and though she faced challenges, she looked forward to enjoying sports and the level of competition she’d come to love. With her casts removed, her first day of sixth grade was difficult, but she persevered to get back into the game as soon as possible.

“It was really hard for me to walk at first because I’d never walked normally. They told me I couldn’t play that season for volleyball, but I did play basketball that year,” said Bianco.

Now, more than 5 years after her surgery, Bianco continues her active lifestyle. She’s involved with River Forest High School’s Varsity Volleyball, Softball, and the Color Guard teams, and keeps her own schedule packed. As a #1StudentNWI writer she’s also working to share the good news that goes on around her.

“I have a lot of extracurriculars,” explained Bianco. “I love competition and I love being with my teammates. It’s different than a regular high school experience.”

Though there are risks with playing sports even this long after surgery, Bianco is determined to continue. One wrong move could potentially end the active lifestyle she enjoys, but Bianco views the risk as worth it for the relationships she develops.

“It’s scary because I still have ankle problems. I have to wear braces still, and knowing I can get an injury that could stop all of this is scary,” said Bianco. “It’s worth the risk, though. Being around so many great people, coaches and teammates, and them picking you up even if they didn’t fully understand you is great.”

While many would have called it quits and let their active lifestyle go, Bianco decided instead to lean forward, work hard, and do the best she could with her circumstances. Despite the obstacles she faced, she’s overcome many challenges and been able to thrive in a competitive environment.

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