High-schooler marches in band despite disability

Marcus Werner is like most other high school freshmen at Strawberry Crest high school. He takes tests, plays in the school band, and enjoys eating lunch with his friends. But Marcus was born with spina bifida, making some of his daily tasks quite different from his peers.'

Along with challenging his mind at school, where he is in the International Baccalaureate program, Marcus deals with physical challenge presented by his condition. Spina bifida is a spinal defect that makes his legs weak.

Through the years, it's a problem that has made him stand out to his peers.

"I think some kids are afraid to ask or they feel uncomfortable. When I was growing up, the younger kids didn't really know what to think so they looked at me weird," he explains.

The genetic defect was discovered before he was born.  Doctors performed surgery to relieve pressure on his brain when his mother Teresa was still pregnant. Then, when he was only a week old, he began going to Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa for care.

Marcus had 60 appointments in his first six months of life - and a total of 20 procedures over the past 14 years.

"We've never paid a dime to Shriners and he's had all of his orthopedic surgeries there," says Teresa.

While Marcus' parents were focused on making sure their son was healthy, Marcus set his sights on goals of his own. One of them being to join the marching band.

And his dedicated classmates helped him by pushing him - physically - through every step on the football field. 

"I never really thought about the challenges I would face doing it. I was way too optimistic I guess," says Marcus.

Marcus's dad Sean says giving him the green light to undertake challenges is critical.

"Whether or not we we're thinking he'd be able to do it, we still offered it to him. We let him decide, let him try it and if he wanted to try it and struggle through then he did. And if he didn't want to try it, then that was fine too.”

Sean and Teresa are always trying to send a simple message to other parents of disabled children: There is help and hope.