Bryce Smith was born November 4, 1974. He was born healthy, began developing normally and started walking before his first birthday. Shortly after that 1St birthday he began to have problems. His hands tightly clenched and he could no longer sit or stand. To this date his condition does not have a diagnosis. He likes to call it the "Bryce Disease"; it affects him much like Cerebral Palsy. He has spent thirty-five years using a wheelchair.
His elementary years were at Mater Dolorosa School. His parents preferred this school because his brother was enrolled there. There were concerns that he could not be accommodated as a student with special needs. One of those concerns was that Bryce wouldn't be able to keep up with the workload. His parents were determined to do whatever it would take to help make him successful. His mother volunteered to be the classroom aide and because the school was not handicap accessible Bryce's mother carried him up two flights of stairs to the classroom every morning. Bryce proved that the workload wasn't an issue for him. He says, "God blessed me with a good brain and gave me the gift of intelligence". He used that intelligence and made first honors for most of his elementary years. Bryce loved attending Mater Dolorosa and he made many friends there. As he got older and heavier it was a little harder for his mother to carry him up the steps. At the conclusion of fourth grade he said goodbye to his friends and teachers and transferred to Lawton Elementary to begin fifth grade. Lawton Elementary was a public school with an elevator.
Bryce made lots of new friends and was given a part in the musical "Oliver" with his sixth grade class. In 7th grade he attended junior high. The school's only elevator didn't always work. When the elevator was down Bryce spent classroom time in the cafeteria along with another student who also used a wheelchair. Bryce still missed his old school and all of his friends. At the end of seventh grade he returned to Mater Dolorosa, but the school was still without an elevator. His friends would carry him up the steps as his mother had once done. Bryce chose his high school because of its accessibility. The one big challenge was the distance between the school and his home. A deal was made with the public school busing program for transportation. Bryce made it through High School with a few special accommodations. He had a seven class schedule versus the normal eight to accommodate his transportation needs, an elevator key, someone to walk with him, and permission to leave each class five minutes early to navigate the halls. In high school he enjoyed going to the dances with his classmates and was in the school Band. He played the drums all four years, participated in the Christmas parade with the band and was nominated sophomore class home coming king. Bryce graduated in the top one hundred of five hundred students and was awarded the most dedicated band member out of his class. He was the first physically disabled student to graduate from that school.
Bryce chose an accessible university. In May 1996 Bryce graduated from Holy Family University with a degree in Elementary Education. After a few years as a substitute teacher at Ben Franklin Elementary Bryce went back to his roots at Mater Dolorosa as a technology teacher. But when the doors at his old school closed for good he found himself unemployed. Due to accessibility issues, he no longer pursued teaching. His next job was with PDDC a PIBH member agency as a Photo License Technician at the Lawndale Photo Center. Working at Lawndale gives Bryce independence. He travels to and from work using public bus transportation. The license center is accessible and Bryce is able to work in both the online messenger and the Penn DOT driver's license exam site photo systems.
In his spare time he belongs to the Philadelphia Power Play, a competitive hockey team for individuals who use power chairs. Bryce is a devoted and diehard Philadelphia sports fan. The Flyers and Phillies are his favorite teams. Although he admits that his disability has put some obstacles in his life, he wonders who doesn't have a few obstacles here and there. He is openly thankful for all the great and helpful people God has put in his life through his journey. He feels he is living his life the same as anyone else. Bryce has a warm smile and his laugh can be contagious. He is always ready to help out in any way he can. Today we recognize this 38 year old individual who exhibits outstanding achievement and exceptional character in living and coping with his disability.