Classmates give teenage amputee special gift

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on May 18, 2012 at 10:43 PM

Updated Saturday, May 19 at 8:57 AM

GRAND PRAIRIE - That Gage Oakley can walk down the hall at South Grand Prairie High School seems miraculous. But how he walks is apparently not that big of a deal.

"He just acts like a regular person," said Payne McCoy, a 16-year-old sophomore.

Eleven months ago, Gage was diagnosed with bone cancer. He was 14 at the time, and it was his second fight. At 2 years old, he survived muscle cancer.

This time, though, a tumor was growing in his left leg, and the only way to beat it was to lose that leg. It was amputated just below his hip.

"He's stronger than I am," said Bradley Walters, also a sophomore at South Grand Prairie.

Gage is pretty laid back about it.

"It is what it is, make the best of it," he said. "But probably one of the first things I thought about was, 'How am I gonna drive my truck? It's a standard?'"

Gage is the proud owner of a 1977 Ford 4x4 Ranger XLT, yet after losing his leg in September, he didn't think he could operate it any more.

So in the spirit of Rachel's Challenge, his classmates created "Gallons for Gage."

"It was a big deal, and it went on for about a month," Walters said.

Inspired by the "pay it forward" philosophy of Rachel's Challenge, named after Columbine High School shooting victim Rachel Scott, students donated small bills and loose change in gallon buckets at school and at school events.

"People that didn't even know Gage, they were donating money, like big bucks," said Gage's friend Chase Hill, a junior.

Rachel Scott believed acts of kindness would inspire more kindness. After her death, the way she lived her life inspired schools across the country to follow her lead.

South Grand Prairie students in the "Friends of Rachel" club were behind Gallons for Gage.

They raised almost $4,000. A middle school raised another $1,500. They hired Grand Prairie Ford to convert Gage's truck from standard to automatic.

Mechanics had to hand-make parts for the 35-year-old vehicle. A vehicle that is defying odds and running strong.

"When it comes to Ford, it's tough," Hill said. "Built tough."

Gage raised the leg on his shorts just enough to show off a design on his prosthetic leg: a familiar blue logo that says "Built Ford tough."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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