Cerebral palsy a challenging condition, but Hillard family's support network is strong


NORTH ADAMS -- Heather Blake shed tears when she saw the large crowd greet her son -- fresh off his "shift" as a North Adams police officer -- outside Brayton Elementary School on Tuesday.

"It's an amazing opportunity that has come to him," Blake said. "Everyone's love and care for him is great."

Zach, 7, has cerebral palsy, a disorder of the muscles, and requires crutches or a walker. His legs turn inward as he walks, while orthotic devices like twister cables help.

"He's growing, and it causes problems with his hips. When he walks, he trips over his own feet if he's not wearing gear," she said.

Zach will undergo surgery in June. The operation involves breaking and moving bones in his leg, lengthening muscles, and using Botox to loosen his muscles. He won't be able to stand or walk for about three months, she said.

"Hopefully we'll only need to do the surgery once, but it could happen again," she said.

Blake spoke of her son being accepted at Brayton.

"He has a wonderful community that he is with, and they include him in everything, and they don't view him as being disabled as all," she said.

The mom also spoke of her son's outgoing personality. Though he was slightly shy on Tuesday, he's normally talking up a storm, she said.

She described his personality as amazing, and noted that while he has physical limitations, his social skills are superb.

"He's such a trooper," his father Jeff Hillard said.

Zach participates in Team Impact, a program through Williams College that aims to connect athletes with children, his father said. The manager of the Ephs hockey team comes over to their house once a week for dinner.

The family originally asked just for a ride in the police car, Zach's dad said.

"The next thing you know, it's all this -- the tour, meeting the mayor, riding in the fire truck," he said. "He's going to be talking about this for a while."


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