Mother and son prove little people' stand tall

PERU Life-long North Country resident Sandi Andrews and her son Tony were in a local store when a two- or three-year-old child saw them and turned to her mother and said, Look mom! There are some miniature people. Laughing about the incident, Sandi said, At 4 feet, one-half inch tall, Ive been called several things, but never miniature. Sandi and Tony have a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia. According to the Mayo Clinic, achondroplasia occurs approximately 1 in 25,000 babies. To put that in perspective, about 1,000 babies are born at CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh each year. Achondroplasia isnt an intellectual disability nor is it a disease that requires a cure or reason to assume a person with achondroplasia is incapable. Little people go to school, work, marry and raise children just like anyone else. They do, however, face many unique challenges. Comments people make sometimes innocent and sometimes not so innocent are some of the biggest challenges theyve seen, said Sandi and Tony. At one point in her life, Sandi said, she didnt know how to deal with children who made comments or stared. Her supervisor at work had a suggestion. Just ask them if they know about God, Sandi said of her supervisors advice. If they do, tell them that God made you special because youre special to him. I did and its worked, except for those kids who dont go to church and dont know God, Sandi said. Some situations have been more hurtful. One lunch hour, when Sandi entered a restaurant, a woman looked at her, turned to the gentleman with her and said, That should be in an institution! At 32 years old, Tony has an accepting and philosophical attitude about life. While hes also encountered stares and comments, Tony has risen above the negative with his own towering wisdom. You cant take everything seriously. Ive learned to adapt and to play it by ear, said Tony. Some kids make innocent comments, but youve also got the kids who make hurtful comments. You just cant get mad at everybody. In an effort to educate others, Tony even participated in discussion following the presentation of a movie about the life of a little person, featured during SUNY Plattsburghs diversity film series. Documentaries and television programs like Little People, Big World, have made people more aware of everyday life of little people in the world. We have a normal body and short limbs, Sandi explained during her interview. If youll notice, John, sitting across you at this table, were looking at each other eye to eye. Sandi was raised as a foster child, being given up by her birth mother after she learned Sandi would be a little person. However, Sandi was fortunate enough to have Peru residents Charles and Elizabeth Annis as her mom and dad. They were wonderful, loving foster parents, Sandi said, recalling her youth. At times, I had a chip on my shoulder. I demanded perfection of myself because I was different, Sandi said. Then, when I had Tony, I had to prove myself as a mother, especially to the people at work. Sandi had sole responsibility for Tony during his teenage years after her husband Larry passed away when Tony was 13 years old. Sandi said her attitude about life improved when she realized many people face much more difficult challenges than she has. Surprisingly, Tony has reached the conclusion he has a lot in common with people on the opposite end of the height spectrum. A television program about the life of wrestler Andre the Giant had a special meaning. I thought hes had huge challenges to face. His life paralleled ours in the sense that he had to find clothing that would fit him and faced the same stereotypes, said Tony. About two years ago, Tony was eating in a restaurant and saw a group of children asking a seven-foot-tall man if they could take pictures of him. After the children left, the man walked over to Tony and struck up a conversation. Tony and the man had dinner together and discovered they had many things in common. Neither Andrews has let their size inhibit their achievements. Sandi and Tony are productive community members in spite of their daily challenges. Sandi had a successful 36-year career as a typist-secretary for the Clinton County Department of Social Services. Shes a very active parishioner at St. Augustines Church and has served several town committees. Earlier this year, she was chosen as St. Augustines Knights of Columbus Volunteer of the Year. Tony graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, with a major in elementary education. He is also an active member of St. Augustines Church and Knights of Columbus and teaches religion to fourth-graders. He is employed at Applebees Neighborhood Grill and Bar, Plattsburgh. While they have experienced unpleasant moments in their lives, most people have extended love and support to them. That love and support has enabled them to be examples of the power of faith and show the importance of being able to put things into the proper perspective.

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