It’s truly a beautiful thing that we live in a world where people with disabilities can pretty much do anything they set their minds to! Just look at Stephen Hawking. He is one of the most brilliant minds ever to exist even though he was a non-verbal man and confined to a wheelchair for much of his life because of ALS. Hawking inspired so many to reach well beyond their limits to achieve much more. This post is about just that—the desire to reach far past our bodily limitations against all the odds. Jen Bricker was actually born with a genetic disability and despite everything against her, she was still able to achieve some incredible things.When Jen Bricker was just a baby, she was abandoned by her biological parents because they believed that it would be difficult to cope with a child who had disabilities. Luckily, she was then adopted by Sharon and Gerald Bricker, who already had three sons. Jen spent her childhood growing up with her brand new, loving family in the small town of Oblong, Illinois.
You see, Jen was born with a rare genetic disease that caused her to be born without her legs. Her biological parents, who were from Romania, had no clue that Jen was going to grow up to do big things, even though she didn’t have any legs. Thanks to the persistence of her adoptive parents, Jen would grow up knowing that she was capable of anything, and she would do it in spite of her being disabled.
Jen had an intense love for playing sports. She loved playing basketball and volleyball, but it was gymnastics that stole the young girl’s heart. When she was just a child, she tried her hand at gymnastics, only to find out that she had a natural affinity for the sport. Jen said: “Some of my earliest memories are of watching gymnastics on TV when I was six years old and trying to imitate the moves.”
This little girl wasn’t going to let anything hold her back, and with her parents support, she thrived in spite of her disability. They never let her say the word “can’t” and encouraged her to do everything she wanted. And because of her parent’s encouragement, Jen strived to be the best that she could be at all times.
With her parents support, Jen started competing in gymnastics competitions. In fact, when she was just 11 years old, she had already become the tumbling champion of the state of Illinois. But Jen would soon find out that there were even bigger things in store for her in the future.
When Jen started watching the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, she took notice of an incredible gymnast named Dominique Moceanu. “Dominique was my favorite gymnast. I wouldn’t shut up about her—even at the age of six I fantasized about being related to her,” said Jen. She would eventually find out that her fantasies were more of a reality than she thought.
Dominique Moceanu was the youngest gymnast on the team that won Gold for the United States at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Even though Jen idolized her for her gymnastic abilities, there were other things that they had in common. Like the fact that they were both originally from Romania and they were both outgoing teenagers. “All I knew of my heritage was that I was Romanian and Dominique was also Romanian. We have the same features and spunky personalities. I was just drawn to her,” said Jen.
Soon after, Jen began to ask her adoptive parents about where she came from originally. “I wasn’t expecting her to say yes because we’ve always been very open in our family but to my surprise, she pulled out a folder of papers. She handed a document and said, ‘You’re never going to believe this, but your biological last name is Moceanu,'” explained Jen.
That was when Jen started putting together the pieces of her past. “As soon as the words left her lips, I knew what it meant; my childhood idol was my sister,” she explained. Could it be true? Had Jen been idolizing her own biological sister for all of those years?
As it turns out, Jen and Dominique actually are sisters! “When I was 16 I discovered Dominique was actually my sister and I remember thinking these kinds of things happen in the movies, this is not real life,” said Jen. Despite knowing the truth, it took Jen four years to reach out to Dominique.
Four years after learning the truth, Jen wrote Dominique a letter with a copy of her adoption papers as proof. Dominique was shocked to hear what Jen had to say. Even though she wasn’t speaking with her parents at the time, she reached out to them to find out the truth. They immediately confirmed that they had put Jen up for adoption when she was younger.
Dominique replied to Jen’s letter, and Jen couldn’t have been more happy with what she had to say. “Just before Christmas, 2007, when I was 21, I opened up a letter and I saw a card fall out and it was from Dominique. I saw her signature and it was just the most amazing feeling. Half way through the letter she said I was about to be an auntie, so I knew that they had accepted me immediately,” said Jen.
At the same time, Jen found out that she had another sister named Christina, as well. “Four months later I met Dominique and my younger sister, Christina. The similarities were so apparent it was shocking; we sounded alike, our mannerisms were the same and with Christina, especially, it was like looking in the mirror,” Jen explained.
It’s crazy how similar the three sisters were, even though they had never met each other before. “All three of us did gymnastics and Christina loved volleyball, which is my second favorite sport. Since then we’ve become close and I feel like a piece of the jigsaw of my life has fallen into place. Although people I’ve just met are always amazed by what I can do, outside of work my friends say they forget that I’m any different,” said Jen.
Like her Olympic-medal winning sister, Jen has always striven to be the best. Jen, who currently lives in Studio City, California, has done everything she can to teach other people that they’re capable of doing anything, as well. She believes that everyone is “born with unique gifts and talents” and she wants to help people understand how capable they are.
Even now, as an adult, Jen pushes herself to become better and stronger. For example, she wasn’t too sure about adding dance to her repertoire, but she took a chance. And now, she has a professional choreographer helping her work on a routine that focuses on her individual strengths.
Jen has explained that she feels happiest when she is performing her acrobats or hanging from her silk threads. And she sure has enough ambition for 20 people! “My real dream would be to perform on a show like Dancing With The Stars,” she explained. We’d love to see you there, as well, Jen!
Jen has taken her disability and used it to her advantage, rather than a crutch to avoid challenges. In fact, Jen LOVES challenges and still refuses to use the word “can’t” as a part of her vocabulary! Jen’s determination and strength is truly inspiring. Keep up the good work, Jen! We’ll keep an eye out for you on Dancing with the Stars!