Look Beyond the Differences and See the Talent

  • Published
  • By Dana Rimington
  • Hilltop Times Correspondent
Born with Phocomelia, an extremely rare congenital disorder causing shortened arms, no elbows, and missing limbs, Landon Weeks at age 10 wanted to learn to play the piano like his older brothers, but his mom, Lanette Weeks, had a difficult time finding a piano teacher who would teach someone who only had six fingers -- three on each hand.

Eventually, Weeks found a concert pianist who had been in an accident, which paralyzed one of her arms, and only left the use of two fingers on her other side. "She only agreed to take on a student with six fingers because she figured if she could play the piano with only two fingers, she could teach Landon, who had even more fingers," said Weeks, who did most of the speaking for Landon between songs he performed for the Hill AFB Annual Persons with Disabilities Awards Luncheon last week.

Now a freshman at Weber State University, 18-year-old Landon Weeks spends his spare time working towards his goal of becoming a professional musician. 

"I love your theme, look beyond the differences and see the talent. We are here today because people did do that with Landon, looking past his deformed hands and arms, helping him develop his talents," Lanette Weeks said. "We can tell you that miracles happen and that dreams do come true. Landon has had to overcome many challenges before playing the piano."

As Landon proceeded to play several songs on the piano, one had to look carefully to see how he was playing such intricate piano music with only six fingers. Landon said his piano teacher helped him learn how to play only the critical notes, leaving out notes people wouldn't notice were missing.

In 2012, Landon performed in Disneyland with the Bonneville High School band during a competition, later receiving a special award because the judges had never seen an accompanist with hands like his that could play so well. The theme of the award? Time to start dreaming, which Landon thought was fitting for his life.  

Since high school, Landon has performed for thousands of people, bringing his message that now is the time to see dreams come true.

"Landon learned early in life that he had two choices with his arms -- to laugh, or cry," related Lanette, who shared the time when Landon was in preschool, wearing a helmet to protect his head from hematomas every time he fell, some kids teased him about his arms and helmet. "He simply told them he had been abducted by aliens and if they didn't stop teasing him, they would come get them and do the same thing to their arms," Lanette said.

Landon's persistence extends beyond the piano, having become the first disabled scout in the country to earn all 135 scouting merit badges.

At the end of the presentation, Landon shared his thoughts. "If you ever see someone who looks different, don't be afraid to talk to them. We must learn to overcome challenges and find special talents and skills we are born with, and when you think something is too hard. There are many things I can't do, but there are many things that I can do," said Landon.

Col. Thomas Rogers, Jr., 75th Air Base Wing Staff Judge Advocate said about 12 percent of the employees on base have special disabilities. "Every day people come and face their disability, going that extra mile to show us what they can do and we are better for it because of their can-do attitude," Rogers said. "The diversity they bring to our team empowers us to achieve more, and we need to continue recognizing throughout the year the potential of people with disabilities who work with us."

The winners for the Persons with Disabilities Awards Presentation:

Outstanding Ogden Air Logistics Complex Employee with A Disability Award

-- Gregory Glen Hales

Persons with Disabilities Support Award

-- Judith Maughn

-- David Perry

Outstanding Organizational Award in Support of Persons with Disabilities

Award Program 

-- 75th Force Support Squadron