A casual meeting in Sagrado’s gym was the starting point for a strong brotherhood between Juanjo and Luis Enrique: the former dreamt of completing a 5K despite his physical limitations, the latter challenged himself to be his best to help his partner. Together they succeeded.
By Nicole Ortiz Marrero
You’ve probably seen them together walking around campus: Juan José Barragán with his crutches, charismatic and always smiling to greet his peers; not too far you’ll see Luis Enrique Fernández, the “brother” that assured him that “everything is possible” and promised to accompany him in this challenging adventure.
Spending time with them is a unique experience. Through their bond, they convey the true meaning of companionship, brotherhood and, above all, hope.
Juanjo, as he is affectionately known, longed to participate in his first five kilometer race, however accepting the task pose a challenge given his situation. His condition, cerebral palsy, affects the mobility in his arms and legs, so beyond his commitment and enthusiasm, when carrying out any training these factors would have to be considered.
Now, a year after their first encounter, Luis Enrique remembers how everything began when he decided to help Juanjo, a Public Relations freshman, correct his feet while using the stationary bike in the gym in Sagrado.
At first there was no intention at all. I’m just a person that likes to help, I saw that he needed assistance, he was eager to exercise and that caught my attention. Over time I noticed that he was coming consistently, we talked, and he mentioned his goal of competing in a 5K”, said Luis Enrique, an Exercise Sciences senior.
Difficulty was no obstacle for these two dolphins. Despite the challenges posed by training Juanjo, Luis Enrique ventured to learn more about him and his condition. He read books, consulted with specialists and his Exercise Sciences professor with the aim of creating a plan tailored to him.
Since I didn’t know the condition well, I stopped, went to visit Professor Soler and I educated myself. We didn’t want to risk any type of injury. We wanted to do this the right way”, said Luis Enrique.
For two weeks, under Professor Reynaldo Soler of the Exercise Sciences Program’s tutelage, they designed a training plan for Juanjo, aimed specifically to strengthen his lower extremities. With the professor’s aid, they determined what worked and what didn’t, and began preparing to meet their goal. It was common to find them always at the same hour, committed, working out in the gym. Generally, two times a week, sometimes more.
Their transformation wasn’t limited to the professional field, both have also grown personally: Juanjo has changed his eating habits and says that he learned to “take care and respect himself” with his friend’s influence. While in Luis Enrique’s case this experience has meant a great deal of growth for him and assures that he learned to “never give up and face life’s challenges with great impetus”.
Always around the same time, two or three times a week, faithfully. You would see them walking around the campus and afterwards head to the gym. They didn’t fail each other, it was something with a lot of commitment”, said the professor, who teaches the courses of Exercise Physiology, Cardiorespiratory Conditioning and mentors the Professional Practice.
The awaited day arrived, the “Run, Walk, or Roll It 5K” and both attended.
In the beginning (Juanjo) was a little excited but then everything flowed rather well. He ran the race on his own, nobody helped him. I was so proud”, said Luis Enrique.
In an hour and twenty minutes, they reached the finish line and, together, now plan their next goal: to lower their time, creating an independence from the crutch for Juanjo and simultaneously continue strengthening their friendship.
Juanjo’s trial became the common goal where their brotherhood flourished. Now they share many other things: they go to the movies, enroll in the same courses and normally you can find them joking around.
Honestly he’s like my brother. We have a great and normal relationship, we hangout and talk almost every day”, said Juanjo.
The inseparable duo continue their same routine: two times a week gym meetings and looking for new goals to reach.
Thanks to their commitment, together they are the best example of the well-known saying, “he that perseveres, triumphs”.