Every Friday is sparring day at the gym. I also pick my two daughters up from school on Fridays, so they come here to the gym. All my fighters put on their head gear, mouth guards, their sixteen ounce gloves and everyone beats each other up. The music’s pumping and very often you’ll hear my eldest daughter Mia yell out a big ‘Yay!’ while clapping and cheering everyone on. She loves the interaction and the atmosphere. Every member who comes into the gym and sees Mia will say hello and give her a high five. In my industry we’re know as thugs, but if us thugs can be taught to be accepting and inclusive of all people in our society then there’s no reason why the rest of the world can’t understand even a tenth of what my crew understand.

When Mia was born the doctors basically said don’t expect her to make it. And if she did make it, to expect a child that’s not mobile, not verbal, who essentially just sat there. It’s a pain that I can’t explain. Even with all the self-belief I had, I couldn’t help her and so I felt very, very helpless. And while I respect the medical professionals, I still didn’t believe them. I believed in my daughter and she’s grown up to prove every single one of them wrong.

Mia’s learnt to use sign language and can ask for more, ask for help, say please and thank you. She gives high fives and puts her little boxing gloves on to hit the bags. In my eyes the people who helped her do that – the therapists, teachers, education assistants and nurses – are the real heroes. They do this day in, day out, always asking you what they can do to make your life easier. The amount of appreciation I have for these people, I can’t put into words. To choose an occupation like that, you’ve got to be a special person. I’m so proud of where Mia is today. I always say to other parents and grandparents who are in similar situations to give off that positive energy. Have faith and believe in your child.

Pep Andrikos
Father to Therapy Focus client, Mia Andrikos

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