It Takes Two
Joshua Iloreta may be confined to a wheelchair, but that never has stopped him from achieving great things — and that includes participating in the upcoming Kauai Half Marathon. His tenacity, with the help of brother Jason, will allow him to cross the finish line Sunday (Sept. 4).
“You go for your goal; never give up,” he says through a computer that speaks for him, a broad smile stretched across his face.
The 26-year-old was born with cerebral palsy from lack of oxygen to his brain during birth. While he is unable to perform motor functions like walking and talking, his cognitive abilities are fully functioning, as evidenced by his grin and watchful eyes.
“They’re still able to understand, it’s just the brain can’t communicate well with the physical movements of the body,” explains Jason, who is a primary caregiver for Joshua.
This is incredibly frustrating for Joshua, especially while he was growing up — kids inaccurately assumed his mental faculties were delayed. But that was never the case. In fact, Joshua was smart enough to not only to complete high school, but also forge many friendships — especially with the ladies. A smile returns to Joshua’s face as Jason talks about the many female bonds his brother formed during their teenage years at Kapaa High School. “He was a more popular guy than I was. I was known as Josh’s brother, that’s it,” laughs Jason.
Joshua plans to attend Kauai Community College, where he aspires to become a special education teacher.
In the meantime, the Iloreta brothers are working as a team to help dispel the myths and stigmas associated with people who have special needs. They primarily have done so by competing in races together — proving to others that “we are more than just our disability,” says Jason.
During Jason’s final year at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he majored in sociology and psychology, he stumbled upon a video about two brothers in a similar situation. What made their story so amazing was that 9-year-old Cayden Long regularly escorted his 7-year-old brother Connor, who has cerebral palsy, in triathlons because he no longer wanted to see him just sitting on the sidelines. The determination of the 2012 Sports Illustrated SportsKids of the Year touched Jason.
“It wasn’t my original plan; I didn’t see myself coming back for a while,” says Jason, who is two years younger than Joshua.
But watching that video changed his life. “I watched that and I cried,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘I have a responsibility back at home.'”
He made his way back to Kauai in 2014 and, with the help of friend Lucas Gushikuma, as well as motivation from other inspirational stories such as that of father-and-son Iron-man participants Dick and Rick Hoyt, Jason set about raising funds to purchase a chair for Joshua so that they, too, could compete together.
“Josh has always wanted to do a run since he was a senior in high school,” says Jason. “But he never really had anyone to do it with.”
After receiving enough donations to buy the chair, they were able to finish their first event together, the 10K Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run in November 2015.
“That’s been Josh’s motivation in life: always believing he can do something and trying to do it.
“Our mission through this is to disable the misconceptions that society has on those with special needs and, instead, embrace their human capabilities that a condition can’t impair.”
They’ve since completed the 2016 Shamrock Half Marathon in Portland, Oregon. And while it might have been cold and rainy that day in March, Joshua’s spirits were elevated, and that’s exactly what Jason aimed to accomplish. He admits, however, that it’s not always easy caring for his brother and training for races at the same time, particularly since he does not consider himself a “runner.” But the way he tenderly hugs Joshua and lovingly smooths his hair out of his face, it’s obvious the two have a truly special bond.
“This has brought us closer for sure,” says Josh. “It’s a new, cool adventure to add to our story.”
“We all need to come together and support each other.”
Learn more about the Iloreta brothers by visiting their website, keepingupwiththeiloretabros.weebly.com