For a boy who’s dealt with physical challenges all of his 13 years, one would think hearing he was too normal would be the best news ever.
Not so for Zach Miller, a champion on two fronts: as the 2013 Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Champion and on a snowboard.
As a baby, Zach was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy.
“It was hard to hear such an overwhelming, life-changing diagnosis,” said Zach’s mom, TR. He had trouble holding his head up, and she had to coax every bit of food into him. But Children’s Hospital doctors jumped right in with therapies and resources that made a difference right away.
At age 6, Zach, who lives in Roxborough with his family, got to try skiing and soon was an avid participant in the hospital’s sports program. That was all well and good — until he discovered snowboarding.
His eyes catch fire as he talks about the turns, the jumps, the rollers, the step-ups, the berms, the tabletops, the slalom and, of course, the wu-tangs.
“When I get on the snow and strap in, it’s like I’m a different person,” he said.
Whoever that different person is, he’s a winner just like Zach. Zach won the 2012 Wells Fargo Ski Cup National Adaptive Race in Winter Park, and a 2014 Paralympics qualifying race in Lake Tahoe.
Unfortunately, Zach was ruled too high-functioning to compete in Russia.
“When I got turned down, that changed my life,” said Zach. “If you’re normal, you can’t be amazing. If you’re normal, you can’t be inspiring. If you’re normal, you can’t meet all these friends and do all these events that you can enjoy and be inspired by.”
Indeed, you can’t tell by looking that Zach has CP. You’d never know, he said, until the pain and the tiredness hits and all of a sudden he can’t get up the stairs or off the couch.
“But I’m really fortunate to have a brother and father who are there to pick me up, and a family to support me,” he said. “And also the hospital — it’s an accepting environment, and you don’t have to be worried about being made fun of. They support you and they won’t let me say ‘I can’t.’”
Zach’s already well on his way to being grown up, but he’d like to go pro somewhere along the way.
“That’s a pretty big goal,” he said. “And if that doesn’t happen, I at least want to go up on Saturdays and give back to other kids.”
As part of his official champion duties, Zach gets to go to Disney World and the White House. But first he spent some time answering phones Feb. 20-22, helping radio station Alice 105.9 raise money for Children’s Hospital.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to represent all these kids that have challenges every day,” said Zach. “And I got to meet (deejays) Slacker and Steve.”