BETA

Young man's heart inspires ward's lead in division

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Isaac Lau is heartbroken whenever he is told that he cannot play team sports.

An Eagle Scout with a strong conviction, he speaks five languages, often dreams of performing triple axles on ice (perhaps in the Olympics) — in his mind, his gymnastic stunts are perfect. But a degenerative muscular disorder, which affects his speech and walking, has prevented him from playing sports. "My body is old, but my mind is young and strong," said the 21-year-old.

Isaac's dream turned into reality Aug. 3 when AT&T Hawaii sponsored him in the prestigious AT&T Hawaii Seventh Annual Hawaii Dragon Boat Races. "Team Isaac," made up of his relatives and members from the Hawaii Kai Ward, Honolulu Hawaii Stake, placed first in the celebrity division.

Isaac's team was one of 53 paddling crews worldwide that competed in the Dragon Boat Races, a 2,000 year-old Chinese tradition that has turned into an international athletic event. The competition involved three ferocious-dragon-shaped boats, shipped from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, racing through Hawaiian waters.

"This was the first time anyone allowed me to play in a team sport and I now know how important it is to work as a team," Isaac said.

"He was originally going to paddle but injured his thumb during practices so he became the dragon drummer instead," explained Joann, Isaac's mother. The drums represent the heart of the dragon, a perfect role for a young man with a big heart and a not-so-perfect walk.

"Isaac always inspires others to never give up despite challenges or disabilities," touts his father, Norrin. Isaac and sister, Tammy, who is afflicted with the same condition, are single adult representatives and recently held a handicap awareness activity. "We blindfolded people and put them in wheelchairs so walking people could understand what we go through," said Isaac.

From the race, Isaac learned that the beat of the drum personifies the heartbeat of the dragon. But it also represents the desires of Isaac's heart that propelled him to show the world that people can conquer obstacles upon the waters of life.

— Sister Sagisi is media director, Hawaii Public Affairs Council.