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Feeling alive: ALS hasn't kept Kicklighter from his passion

Times News - 5/24/2019

May 24-- May 24--Since he was 2 years old, 2013 North Henderson High graduate Scott Kicklighter has had autism, and just two years ago, he was diagnosed with ALS.

The disease, which affects fewer than 20,000 people per year, attacks nerve cells, and people who suffer from it progressively lose their ability to move. For the past four years, Kicklighter's passion has been taking Karate classes at Glover's Martial Arts Academy in Hendersonville, and ALS hasn't kept him from the dojo.

When asked how he felt being in the dojo each week, Kicklighter had an inspirational reply: "Alive," he said.

The 24-year-old lettered at North, playing on the varsity football team. A couple of years after high school, he asked his parents if he could start taking Karate classes.

"In talking to a freind and colleague at North, they mentioned that Cody (Glover) was taking on new students. I took Scott to observe one of the classes, and before I knew it, Scott was on the mat. They hit it off from the beginning," Scott's mother, Kristi Kicklighter, said.

"He's been great to have here," Sensei Cody Glover said Thursday at the dojo. "He's an amazing student and has been progressing every day."

Kristi Kicklighter said she and her husband, Brackley, had been taking Scott to physical therapy for ALS. He had started losing use of his legs, arms and hands.

"But when he comes here to the dojo, he changes," she said. "We've actually cut down on our trips to physical therapy because of coming here. He does the Karate moves and he just really enjoys it. This is his passion. You can tell."

And so can Glover.

"He loves punching me in the face," Glover said, laughing.

Kristi Kicklighter recalled one time when Scott fell and broke his jaw. All he was thinking about was getting to the dojo.

"The last thing he said before going under (for surgery) was 'Can I go to Karate Saturday?'" she said.

After four weeks, the doctor finally gave in and said he could go back to the dojo.

"The doctor said, 'He can go, but no falls and no sparring that would result in a hit to his face. None... got it Scott?' Scott's answer was textbook Scott: 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Call Cody.' So I called Mrs. Jan and asked her to put him back on the schedule. Her response was 'Oh good. We've been holding his spot,'" Kristi Kicklighter said.

May is ALS Awareness Month for the ALS Association, whose mission, according to its website, is to discover treatments and a cure for ALS, and to serve, advocate for, and empower people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest.

That's exactly what Scott Kicklighter, who also still works as the janitor at Clear Creek Elementary, is doing.

"He was our Student of the Month in February, and he recently just earned his green belt," Jan Overcash of the dojo said. "He works so hard, and when he's on the mat, everyone gathers around to watch him. We all love him here."

Kristi Kicklighter expressed her thankfulness for the willingness of the staff at Glover's to work with her son. She believes in her heart that it is definitely helping.

"There is no doubt that the physical activity Scott gets at Glover's is preventing more muscle loss, or at the very least slowing down the progression. I'm convinced he'd be in a wheelchair full time without the physical activity he does for Karate. But most important of all, Cory, Larry and Cody give Scott something to look forward to," she said. "We are forever grateful for (them) helping our son pursue his passion and focusing on what he CAN do, not what he can't do."

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(c)2019 Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C.

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