Each year, Countryside Montessori takes a group of campers to Gatlinburg, Tenn., for its Camp Free Spirit, where they learn about values, whitewater raft, and cap it off with a challenging 8-mile hike. Conrad French, 8, was attending his fourth Countryside camp this summer, and decided to tackle that hike.
Conrad has a rare birth defect, skeletal dysplasia, a bone condition in which bones and some connective tissues develop abnormally. School athletic director Nick Nichols says only about 30 percent of campers usually complete the hike: The last mile is straight up. You are literally hanging onto trees to pull yourself up. He says he tried to talk Conrad out of it, but he emphatically told me that he was going to do it.
And he did. The hike took nine hours, and as the group finished, Conrad was at the front.
There is nothing that young man cannot do, said Nichols. It was something that I wanted to do, said Conrad.