After receiving a cerebral palsy diagnosis just before his sixth birthday, Gatesville High School junior Roman Perez continues to inspire others by never giving up and keeping a positive outlook on life.
On Oct. 21, Roman was recognized for his athletic and academic achievements at Night of Superstars in Dallas, an annual red-carpet event that celebrates the remarkable journeys of teens and young adults who have been affected by a disability or illness. Roman was one of five students from the Dallas-Fort Worth and Central Texas regions who received recognition at the event.
“It feels awesome to know that my story is getting out there to everybody and to the public,” he said. “It feels amazing.”
Roman has overcome his diagnosis by refusing to see himself as different from his peers. He not only plays football, basketball, and baseball, but also excels in academics as well as volunteers at his local care center.
“I guess when I’m standing still at practice sometimes my muscles tighten up, so I have to re-stretch, but other than that I don’t really see much of a difference compared to the other kids,” he said.
Roman’s mom, Cassie Perez, said she first noticed her son’s symptoms when he was limping at a golf course in the first grade. After several exams and doctor’s appointments, he was diagnosed with a mild form of spastic cerebral palsy, which can cause muscle tightness and difficulty with movement.
“I was just in shock,” Cassie said. “I have no idea what this is, and I don't know what his future looks like. I had zero answers, so we just started reaching out to everyone we could to get help.”
Despite doctors saying he might struggle to achieve certain tasks, Cassie said Roman could already swim, tie his shoes, and ride a bike at the time of his diagnosis.
“The doctor was amazed,” Cassie said. “He said ‘he shouldn't be able to do those things.’ He did it sooner than a lot of his friends.”
“If we can just let him go, and do what he thinks he can do, then he can do it,” she adds.
Cassie said the founders of Night of Superstars reached out to her after seeing Roman’s story on KWTX. To be nominated, Roman went through an application process and received letters of recommendation from his coaches and teachers who spoke to his resilience and success.
“One thing that we've really appreciated is that the coaches and teachers have the same expectation of him as everybody else,” Cassie said. “lf the whole team is running, he is also running. He doesn't get a pass, and we've really appreciated that because we never wanted special treatment, and we wanted him to do everything or even more.”
After high school, Roman hopes to pursue a career as a pilot. Cassie said her son had the opportunity to connect with a corporate pilot at Night of Superstars, allowing for an important mentorship opportunity.
“Like all these other kids, I’ve always wanted to fly and travel places,” Roman said. “I feel like being a pilot would be amazing, because you get to go places and get paid to do it. It’s a source of income as well as getting all the experiences that come from traveling.”
Night of Superstars not only showcases the accomplishments of individuals who defy the odds, but also raises funds to provide them with scholarships for college, mentorship, and entrepreneurship if they wish to start a business.
“No matter what the problems are, how much trouble you are going through right now, just always push through it, and it will always get better in the end and make yourself a better person,” Roman said.