"Handicapped" is not one of the Piner family's favorite words, even when it means a parking space close to the mall on a rainy day.
Charlee Piner doesn't like the word, or the excuses it can allow, or even the privileges - like a convenient place to park."We don't call it a handicap. We call it a challenge," she explains.
Her two youngest children, 8-year-old Adam and 9-year-old Debbi, have proved Charlee right. Adam, born with only one arm, and Debbi, who must use crutches to walk, have become karate champions.
Adam won the U.S. Karate Federation national championship for his age division last month in Las Vegas. Debbi won a gold medal at the Utah Summer Games.
"People say, `Oh, that's in the Special Olympics, right?' And I say, `No!' " grins Charlee.
Both children take karate from John McNeill at the Sandy Wado-Kai, a dojo that welcomes all ages and abilities. McNeill, a kind man who puts up with no sloppiness from his students, stresses that karate training means "learning the basics and adapting them to individual bodies."
One of McNeill's young students was brain injured in a sledding accident a couple of years ago. McNeill will also soon begin teaching karate to a child with Down's syndrome. The self-discipline involved in the martial art can sometimes help kids with attention deficit disorder get off Ritalin, he says.
"All my brown and black belt students are `A' students," adds McNeill.
For all his students, he says, Adam is a "fantastic example" of how determination and perseverance can overcome physical limitations. Although balance is central to karate, and two arms make balance a lot easier, Adam has learned to compensate.
Two arms also make it a lot easier to block the punches of your opponents, but Adam has learned to compensate there too. "He has the hardest kicks in the class," says McNeill, who makes no concessions for Adam's "challenge." Like other students in the class, if Adam is not concentrating McNeill orders 10 push-ups, done on his fist.
"The thing that most impresses me about Adam is that he's never said he couldn't do something because of his handicap."
Both Adam and Debbi love the song "Never Say Never" from "An American Tail," says Charlee.
Adam is a karate purple belt. Debbi is blue belt. Charlee and two older daughters, Staci and Jodi, also take karate. Their dad, Gary, who apparently realizes that he is outnumbered, has also signed up for lessons.