A news article and video from the Daily Oklahoman / NewsOK on January 11, 2014: “How Tobias Bass’ wish to run with his brother touched more people than he could’ve imagined.” http://newsok.com/article/3923115
EDMOND — Titus Bass wrestles on the floor, roughhouses on the couch and wants to go outside every chance he gets.
Typical of a 12-year-old boy.
Except that Titus isn’t typical.
Cerebral palsy and other medical issues caused by his premature birth left Titus with severe disabilities. He can’t walk, hear or eat. But now, thanks to a little brother with a big heart and some generous strangers, Titus can feel what it’s like to run.
Tobias Bass wants other kids like his older brother to be able to experience the same feeling.
He needs some help, though.
But before we get to that, we need to rewind to September and a letter written to a couple of local TV news anchors. Tobias wanted to push Titus in a 5K, but the family didn’t have anything big enough or sturdy enough. What happened after Tobias carefully printed out a three-page letter asking to borrow a jogging stroller has surprised the entire family.
The ripples touched many.
Tobias wants them to continue, fulfilling a vision the 11-year-old outlined in his letter.
I will volunteer myself out to any other parents who want me to run their disabled children in a 5K.
I can be the legs for more than one kid.
* * *
Titus Bass wasn’t expected to leave the hospital alive.
Born more than three months premature, he weighed only a pound. The tips of his fingers and toes turned black for a time because blood wasn’t circulating to them. He spent nine months in the neonatal intensive care unit but was eventually able to go home.
His mom calls him a miracle.
Only a couple months after Titus left the hospital, Contessa Bass was back to give birth to Tobias.
She calls him a miracle, too.
“Tobias was born different,” she says. “He’s not been the average child.”
Contessa, a single mom who teaches special education at John Marshall, remembers trips to Walmart when Tobias was young. With three older sons, she was used to hearing, “I want, I want, I want,” but when she told Tobias that they weren’t getting something, there was never a tear, much less a tantrum.
“That’s all right,” Tobias would say. “I don’t need anything.”
He had a maturity and a sensitivity that was always far beyond his years.
A couple years ago when Contessa and her boys moved to Legacy Station, an Edmond neighborhood of tidy brick homes built by Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, Tobias became enamored with a man with disabilities who lives a few doors down. The man rides a three-wheeled bike and rarely speaks to anyone, but Tobias found out that the man’s entire living room is filled with Legos.
“How could you not say that’s the greatest man in the world?” he asked his mom.
Every Friday, Tobias uses his own money to buy pizza and soda and delivers it to the man’s door.
Even though Tobias has a big heart for others, he’s most attuned to and compassionate toward Titus. The brothers have a relationship that sometimes defies logic.
There have been times when they will be sitting on the couch watching TV, and Tobias will go to the kitchen, get apple juice out of the refrigerator and bring it back for Titus.
“Why did you do that?” Contessa will ask.
“Oh,” Tobias will say, “Titus wants it.”
“How do you know that?”
“Titus just let me know.”
“He can’t talk.”
“Well, you’re just not listening, Mom.”
But when it comes to going outside, Titus has never left anyone with any doubt about what he wants. He will crawl to the door and just stare out the window. He will holler if he sees neighborhood kids playing. And if Contessa and Tobias are getting ready to go to football or jujitsu practice, they have to put Titus in his room with the nurse who comes to help the family a few hours a day and hope he doesn’t realize where they’re going.
“If Titus saw us get in that car and leave … ” Contessa says, “he would cry horribly.”
When they take Titus with them to practice or games, he always wants to get on the field or mat. Contessa worries about his safety, but Tobias always looks for ways to include him.
“I don’t want him living life on the sideline,” Tobias says. “I want him living life in the game. He needs to actually live a life.
“He needs to have a bucket list.”
“Oh, wow,” Contessa says.
“A bucket list,” Tobias continues. “You know how we have bucket lists?”
“Well, we’re not the only ones that get one. Titus needs one of those, and he needs to live his life.”
* * *
Tobias realized he could help Titus live his life a little more last year when he saw a TV segment about Team Hoyt.
For more than 30 years, Dick Hoyt has pushed his disabled and wheelchair-bound son, Rick, in races. 5Ks. Half marathons. Marathons. Triathlons. Even ironmans. Together, they’ve finished more than a thousand events.
Tobias decided he wanted to do an ironman with Titus.
One problem: you can’t do an ironman until you’re 18 years old.
So, Tobias decided to start like the Hoyts did and run a 5K. A race at John Marshall where his mom works seemed the perfect place to start.
One problem: Tobias didn’t have anything big enough to hold Titus during the race. The only way they could use the stroller they had was to duct tape his feet in place.
Then, Tobias saw something else on TV that gave him an idea. He was watching News 9 with his mom when he heard anchors Kelly Ogle and Amanda Taylor talking about a man who’d died and his family needed help with burial costs.
Tobias decided Ogle and Taylor were the ones who could help him make a plea for jogging stroller for Titus. He writes letters often, mostly notes of encouragement for his mom, so he figured he’d just write the anchors a letter and tell them what he needed.
“Good news,” he told his mom. “No one’s dead, and I’m not asking for any money, so, of course they’re going to answer me.”
Contessa wasn’t so sure.
“I threw it away,” she says of the letter.
But the aide in Contessa’s classroom persuaded her to mail it. What could it hurt?
A couple days later, Contessa’s phone rang.
“Can I talk to Tobias Bass?” a man asked.
Contessa handed the phone to Tobias thinking it was his teacher from Ida Freeman Elementary and fearing something bad had happened.
“This is Kelly Ogle,” the man told Tobias.
“Are you serious?” Tobias said.
“We’re going to come to your house and interview you.”
That’s not all that Ogle, Taylor and News 9 did. They contacted Oklahoma ABLE Tech, and the state agency provided a jogging stroller. Not to borrow. To keep.
The segment that News 9 did on the Bass brothers received more than 1,300 online comments.
When they ran the race, dozens of people crowded around them at the finish line.
“Can I have your autograph?” one man even asked Tobias.
Then, the story went viral. The Huffington Post, People.com and Today.com picked it up. “The View” called and wanted to fly the boys to New York City to be on the show, where the family was given a trip to Disney.
Tobias sat on the set of the show with Barbara Walters, Jenny McCarthy and others, his arm slung over the back of the chair, his legs crossed looking totally at ease. But Contessa says that was the first time Tobias didn’t quite understand what was happening.
“Why are people making such a big deal,” he asked her, “over me just loving my brother?”
* * *
Tobias and Titus have had a chance to do lots of cool stuff since their story went viral.
With Tobias pushing Titus, they led the Oklahoma football team onto the field on Senior Day.
At the invitation of Kevin Durant, Tobias and the family’s pastor had floor seats for a Thunder game.
The family’s church for more than a decade, LifeChurch, gave the boys matching triathlon gear to help Tobias reach his ultimate ironman goal. Blue swim caps and goggles. Black swim trunks. Black cycling suits. Grey shirts.
Even with all that, the best thing about the whole deal has been that the brothers have a stroller and Tobias can take Titus out on a run any time they want.
“How are you feeling?” Tobias will ask when they’re running.
Titus will just smile.
Tobias, who wants to become a pastor, has already seen a similar reaction from another disabled kid. On Thanksgiving, he pushed one of his mom’s students in the Edmond Turkey Trot. She loved it.
Titus, on the other hand, wasn’t a fan.
“The whole time … this boy here beat me up, bit me, scratched me,” Contessa says, looking at Titus. “He was a little upset.”
Titus wanted to be the one with Tobias.
So, Tobias has decided to start his own club. He wants to find other boys and girls who will join him and help push disabled kids. When he wrote in his letter to News 9 that he’d push other kids, he was serious.
And he’s already had a lot of takers.
“I need at least, like, six kids helping me because there’s a lot of kids that want me to help,” Tobias says. “And I have a hard time saying no.”
On Jan. 25 for a 5K at Oklahoma Christian, for example, parents of two boys have asked Tobias to push their sons. He said yes, though he’s not sure how he’s going to run with both of them, not to mention his own brother.
This is where Tobias needs help.
He needs runners. They don’t have to be fast. They just need to be willing.
And even though he didn’t ask for this, sounds like he could use a loaned jogging stroller or two as well.
“There’s some people that can do some things, and there’s some people that can’t do some things,” Tobias says. “So, the people that can do some things have to help the people that can’t do some things do those things.”
Such profound words out of such a young boy, but much like Titus, Tobias is showing the world that he is an amazing kid.
Contessa nods at Tobias as he talks about doing for those who can’t, then she glances at Titus. He is sitting on the end of the couch with one of the boys’ blue swim caps on his head.
“Did Titus just put that on his head?” she exclaims.
Tobias turns to look and breaks out in a big grin.
Tobias lunges at Titus and locks him in a bear hug, the eyes of both brothers sparkling.