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BHS student excels despite rare disease

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON /  Tra Henderson plays the drums in the BHS marching band.

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Tra Henderson plays the drums in the BHS marching band.

Drums are the pulse of a marching band. Every strike on the drumhead gives the music rhythm and direction. Tra Henderson is one of the students who gives that heart to the Brookhaven High School Band.

Tra, 16, has been in the band since the sixth grade. He started with the trumpet, then moved to the baritone and now plays the electronic drums in the marching band pit crew. For most students being in the band is challenging, but for Tra it has been an uphill battle.

Tra was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare disease that causes his bones to easily break. Doctors knew from birth that he had OI because he was born “crush,” meaning numerous bones were broken. Growing up he has had over 60 broken bones; the family stopped counting after a while. He has received several different treatments from an early age, the most recent being an insertion of rods and titanium nails into his legs and hips.

“Life for him has been tough, but he has always been a happy child and always worries more about others than himself,” said Tra’s mother Vivian Henderson. “It has been hard for him physically, but he is good hearted and good spirited.”

Because Tra has been confined to a wheelchair, there have been many battles that Vivian and his father, Willie Henderson, have had to fight. Every year the couple takes a list to the school with requirements for Tra to be able to participate in events and attend classes. Vivan said there are always things that need to be changed in order for him to go to school.

“We’ve had to teach people how to accommodate Tra,” said Vivian. “People see a wheel chair and think he can’t do anything. My child’s mind is sharp. I wouldn’t ask people to do things that I hadn’t done myself. I wish people would be more considerate.”

Vivian and Willie have taught Tra the importance of knowing his rights. They have emphasized to him that he does have rights, and he cannot be discriminated against according to the constitution. If something was not right, the Henderson family took a stand for the disability rights of their son, which in turn will have paved the path for other disabled children in the community.

“My parents always say you can do as much as anyone else,” said Tra. “I’m not going to let a wheelchair or walker keep me down. “

Vivian added although she stresses the importance of sticking up for himself, she has also made it clear that he should be courteous to everyone and remember his manners because in many situations he will need the help of others.

“When you have a child with a disability you have to build them up, and every day I’m building him. I try to make sure he has a good life, and he’s happy,” said Vivian. “I thank God every day for Tra because he has made me a better person.”

The wheelchair hasn’t slowed Tra down. He and his parents continually fight the uphill battle against discrimination, so that Tra is able to enjoy the things he likes such as band.

“There is no turning around; we are always moving straight forward,” said Willie.

Tra enjoys traveling as much as band. His favorite trip was his visit to Washington D. C., where he was able to be a congressman for a day. Senator Thad Cochran furnished the tickets to tour the Library of Congress and the White House. He was able to meet representative Greg Harper.

Right now Tra is focused on typical high school activities, learning to drive, finding a prom date, graduating and going to college. He plans on following in his father’s footsteps and attending Jackson State University to study business management. Then he wants to use what he has learned to improve the Brookhaven community.

“I want to stay in Brookhaven and give back. I was born and raised here; most everyone I know is here; everyone I’m close to is here,” said Tra. “Why leave when you can help someone else out in your community and in the process help yourself out.”

Although Tra enjoys playing in the band, he will not continue in college. He want’s to focus on school. College is a big step for all students, but both Vivian and Willie feel that Tra will do just fine on his own.

“I live for today and just gotta wait for tomorrow,” said Tra.