Just Lenna | NevadaAppeal.com

Just Lenna

by Teri Vance

Using a homemade harness, Lenna Fagan takes her dog Goldie on a walk near their Gardnerville home. Top photo, Lenna, who hopes to one day work with animals, has several pets at home including Fez the snake.

A look into Lenna Fagan’s bedroom is a glimpse into the 12-year-old girl’s personality.

Tucked into a corner are aquariums where her lizard, Jack, and snake, Fez, live. It’s also where her pet horned toad, Sam, lived before his unfortunate demise.

Her walls are papered with her drawings of creatures of all kinds. The names of her best friends are painted in shiny orange on the window.

Goldie, the family’s golden retriever and yellow Labrador mix, mills in and out.

There’s no clue in there to indicate that this girl is different than any other seventh-grader at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School. Maybe that’s because she barely notices it herself.

“You could call me the same as anybody else,” she explained. “I’m just missing a leg. That’s it.”

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It’s the attitude her parents decided to embrace when their baby was born without her right leg.

“We’ve just always encouraged her to do whatever she wants to do,” said mother Meredith Fagan. “She can do as much as the rest of us can with two legs.”

It didn’t stop her from learning to downhill ski and play basketball while living in Oregon. It didn’t stop her from joining an American Youth Soccer Organization team in Douglas County this year.

“I don’t really know how I got into it,” Lenna said. “I just started kicking the ball around and all. And I like to run. I can run very fast and I have a lot of arm muscle.”

She needs that strength to maneuver on her crutches, weaving between players and supporting herself fully with her arms to kick the ball.

Lenna’s agility caught Coach Tim Dry’s attention, and her determination won him over.

“I had no issue once I saw her running around and how much control she had,” Dry said. “She probably gets around as well as the average kid out there. She’s more mobile than a lot of kids.”

He lobbied her case to the local AYSO board members, where it was decided she could play as long as she wore her prosthesis. But she is unable to run with her prosthetic leg, rarely wearing it at all because of the discomfort.

Her father wrapped her crutches in protective foam and the board agreed to let her use them on the field.

However, the national governing committee was still concerned about potential injuries from opponents and denied her request to play.

Dry and other parents then wrote letters to the board and sent a videotape of Lenna playing in a scrimmage.

“Seeing a kid who was so excited and passionate, who really wanted to be out there,” Dry said, “makes you want to fight for her, to go to battle for her.”

They won. Lenna has spent the season as a player for the Firecrackers.

“She’s out playing with her friends and neighbors like she should be,” Dry said.

Lenna’s parents also support her interests – and require even more. Given a choice, Lenna would spend all her time outside.

“I’m a tomboy, so I do stuff with my dad a lot,” she said. “But my mom makes me dress up for weddings and I hate that.”

She also takes piano lessons at the insistence of her mother.

“I just think it’s important for a child to know how to play one instrument,” Meredith explained. “They don’t have to be a big show person, just know how to do it.”

Whether she’s perfecting her moves on the soccer field, chasing the family dog, Goldie, in a continuous loop through the house or turning flips on the trampoline, Lenna’s physical strength is obvious.

Her intellectual fortitude also manifests itself. Like when she was 4 and helped her father, Mel, figure out how to place siding on the house, or how she recently fashioned her own dog harness.

“I didn’t want to buy one so I cut five pieces of string and tied them together,” she said, explaining the function of each segment. “I had it all figured out in my head.”

Once she slips the harness on the dog, the two go for a walk – of sorts. Lenna sits on the skateboard while Goldie pulls her along.

Lenna knows her ways of doing things are different from others. When she moved to Gardnerville from Oregon with her parents and 11-year-old sister, Alexandra, two years ago, she was prepared to answer the curiosities of her new schoolmates.

“It’s no big deal,” she said. “Except with the little kids. They ask like five thousand questions and you have to explain it over and over.”

Contact Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or at 881-1272.