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Arcadia boy finds way to play football despite disability

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Arcadia, Wisc. (WXOW)-  Like most middle school boys, Caden Dahl set a goal to be a part of the football team.

“I just like playing, and I like being a part of the team,” Dahl said.

He worked hard at it and has assumed the role of the kicker.

However, this isn’t the position he envisioned playing. But, right now it’s his only option. Caden was born with no right arm and a short left arm. There is no medical explanation for why. Doctors say, “It’s just a fluke.”

“I’ve always wanted to play football, but I never thought I’d be able to,” Dahl said.

He made a “Big Dreams List” in fourth grade. The first sentence says, “I want to have real arms so I can have my other dreams like playing football.”

But, he quickly realized there was a solution.

“I’ve always wanted to play football, but I never thought I’d be able to,” Dahl said. “I asked my mom one night, and she said she would think about it because I told her I want to be the kicker, and the kicker doesn’t get tackled or anything so that would be a good position for me.”

Caden was also born with Scoliosis and has been through eight surgeries to fix a collapsing spine. So, his mom was very hesitant about the idea.

“It was actually up until the very day of them signing up for football,” Caden’s mother Heather Mares said. “He didn’t really know. He thought we were kind of going there, and he was going to be like the water boy. And then when we we’re like ‘no you’re going to suit up and wear a helmet and uniform’, he was pretty excited.”

“I am going to make the most of it, but yeah there is some challenges,” Dahl said.

He’s been finding ways around the challenges his whole life, especially in the classroom.

“Writing,” Dave Patzner said. “I mean honestly, when he writes he uses his feet. He’s just an awesome problem solver.”

He had a problem to solve this week, how to get rid of the nerves before kicking in his first football game.

“I am not going to get any sleep,” Dahl said. “There is no way I am going to get any sleep.”

That game was Tuesday night at Melrose-Mindoro.

“We’re very excited, of course,” Mares said. “But very nervous for him. He is worried about missing and everybody watching.”

The Red Raiders won the toss, which meant Caden was kicking off the game. With the support of his teammates and community, he executed the kick perfectly.

“Kids see him doing the best that he can, hopefully they will keep on working even through the struggles that they have,” Patzner said.

Although he doesn’t have real arms, he can check off his first “big dream.”  And while he is at it, add another one.

“I really want to go big in football,” Dahl said.

Karley Marotta

Weekend Sports Anchor

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