Noah was destined to be a professional athlete, but his journey would push him to the limits of his mind, body and soul.
It all started when he was 7-years-old, watching his neighbor skateboard home from school each day. "I saw him cruising and turning," said Noah. "He looked free." It was in those moments where Noah's passion for skateboarding took flight. He began learning to skate and diligently working toward becoming the best skateboarder he could possibly be.
Over the years, Noah's talent grew exponentially. He was on a path to becoming a professional skateboarder until he received the devastating news that he had osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. It was July of 2013 - a week after his 16th birthday.
"Whenever I found out, at that time and that age, my mentality was, 'Oh, I'm good!' I just thought of it like a cold. I remember them coming in and telling me and they told me I had cancer. My mom was with me and she was crying. She knew the severity behind the diagnosis, but I was like, 'Okay, but I still want to go skateboarding Friday,'" Noah laughed.
However, Noah quickly learned the severity when he was told he had three days to go and pack his bags to begin chemotherapy, with his mom right by his side. "She was there right next to me through everything, every day. She means a lot to me."
What ensued was the difference between day and night; Noah, the teen that would spend hours a day under the sun skating, would spend a year in the hospital. He was only able to leave 4-5 times during that year due to his inpatient treatments. Noah and his family would refer to it as their “home away from home.”
Noah underwent treatment and completely lost his hair. He also had a limb salvage surgery on his left leg, which included a total knee replacement. During his recovery from the surgery, Noah watched the 2014 Paralympics from his hospital bed.
So, when Make-A-Wish came along, Noah said it was a no brainer when it came time to choose his wish: to go to California.
“Skateboarding originated after surfing. Skateboarding was huge in California, so growing up, California had a huge skate influence and it was that style of skateboarding that influenced me all the way back in Missouri. Going to California was where my heart was.”
Noah vividly remembers his volunteer wish granters throwing him and his family a big party with pizza and cake. “It was a celebration of my wish coming true. They were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” His wish granters even brought him gear from his favorite skateboarding company. “It was so amazing to get that gear and feel like a skater again.”
Noah, his mom, and two of his three sisters packed their bags and left in July of 2014, a year after his original diagnosis.
During his wish trip, he and his family enjoyed the ocean, the sunshine—after months of its absence—and Noah even met professional skater, Akeem Haynes, all by chance. “I felt like I had something taken away from me. So, going back out in the sun in California and seeing the ocean and being in that environment, I felt like me again.”
If that wasn’t enough, a random act of kindness had a significant impact on Noah.
“The part that stood out to me the most was when we went out to eat to this seafood restaurant that sat right on the beach. I had my Make-A-Wish pin on and I remember barely being able to eat anything, but then to be right there next to the ocean and see the emotions of my mom and sisters and see how happy they were was amazing. To top it all off, upon getting our check to pay, the couple behind us ended up paying for our meal because they saw I was a wish kid. I think that speaks true to what Make-A-Wish is about; how big of an impact it makes on so many different people. That’s something that will always stick with me."
“It gave us an escape. It gave a us a sense of clarity to get out of such a tense, life-threatening environment of being in the hospital and going through a cancer diagnosis. We really appreciate the littlest things so to have a big thing like that to come true, it really gave us a moment to breathe.”
Noah returned from his trip and more difficult months awaited him.
He completed treatment and though he had the leg operation, he was still in a lot of pain. He had to decide whether to amputate his leg. “It was the best way to save my leg and my life.”
Noah made the choice and in January of 2015, Noah’s leg was amputated.
“For me, I had already seen what was possible with prosthetics and snowboarding so for me it was a no-brainer. I decided to cut my leg off to pursue my dream of snowboarding.” Noah started professional speaking and fundraising, worked as a dishwasher to save up money, and moved to try snowboarding. And he succeeded.
Noah had only been snowboarding a year and a half before participating in the 2018 Paralympics in South Korea. He walked away with two medals, a bronze and a gold.
And now, exactly four years from returning on his wish trip, Noah still reflects on the power of a wish.
“A lot of times when you’re in the hospital and you’re going through these situations, every day can be looked upon as a bad day. But on the other side, if you look around at your friends and your supporters, you realize that today is an okay day and tomorrow can be better. The wish can make the difference between an okay day and a great day.”
Noah is currently living in Colorado Springs, CO at one of the Paralympic training sites. He’s been working every day this summer putting on muscle to match the weight of his competitors, who he says outweigh him by a minimum of 40 pounds. His hair is down to his chest.
Everything has led up to this part of Noah’s story. From first seeing his neighbor skateboard, to deciding to become a professional athlete, the setbacks with his diagnosis, feeling like himself again in California on his wish, watching the Paralympics from his hospital bed—it all brought him here.
Noah explains the high he gets when he competes.
"When I’m snowboarding…' Noah pauses, 'It’s hard to put a description on something that makes you feel so free.'"