John McFarland III named Dapper Dan Child of the Year


CUMBERLAND — John McFarland III will be honored as The Children’s League Dapper Dan Child of the Year at the 71st annual Dapper Dan Awards Banquet to be held Feb. 23 at the Ali Ghan Shrine Club.

John is 14 years old and resides in Cumberland with his parents, John and Alice McFarland, along with two younger brothers and three younger sisters. John attends Fort Hill High School and is in ninth grade.

“John is a unique individual who combines and personifies the characteristics of a strong work ethic as well as displays a bountiful kindness to others,” said Michael Bambara, special education teacher at Fort Hill. 

John was born 2½ months early. In 2007, Menchavez Pediatrics referred him to The Children’s League for developmental delay, failure to walk and speech delay. He received weekly speech therapy and continues to see The League’s physical therapist, Jenny Vought, as well as pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Tis of Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In 2009, John was given a diagnosis of spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. He was prescribed an ankle foot brace and received botox injections and bilateral serial casting for his heel cord contractures. Surgical options to help with his gait and alignment have been discussed and are a possibility in the near future. John has also been evaluated at Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

“John has always worked hard and pushed through his years of therapy, doctors appointments and braces. He is not a complainer, instead he finds the way to attack each day with a positive attitude,” said Cathy Growden, executive director of The Children’s League.

John enjoys sports, especially soccer, but has never had the opportunity to play any organized team sport until recently. He joined the Children’s Adaptive Sports League, an organization developed through the efforts of the Dapper Dan Club, The Children’s League and the Cumberland YMCA. The nonprofit organization provides various sports clinics for special needs youth age 4 to 21 in the tri-state area.

Through CASL, children will be able to develop and strengthen their motor, cognitive and social abilities. It is not what the disability is, it is what the abilities are and how each child can use his abilities to overcome any obstacles to playing the sports they would like to experience.

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