Beau Cosgrove is not your average 11-year-old.
He is a bull rider, thrill seeker and the world’s youngest wheelchair rugby coach – despite a life expectancy of only five years.
Beau lives with an extremely rare, life-threatening condition, Morquio A syndrome, of which only a handful of cases are known to exist in Australia.
However, that doesn’t stop him from embracing life to the fullest.
Rodeo life for the whole family
Beau’s journey was not an easy one.
Growing up with this rare condition, Beau and his family were faced with the unknown when it came to his health.
He has to make constant hospital visits for transfusions and surgeries, as well as to treat pain in his joints and limbs.
His medical care includes a life-saving drug that, without government support, would eventually cost the family $400,000.
Beau uses a motorized wheelchair, which gives him the same freedoms as a normal child.
He and his family try to be positive.
Beau grew up in the small village of Taralga – near Goulburn in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales – with a population of approximately 450 people.
He has always had tremendous support from the locals and from his family, which consists of his parents, Sam and Joe, and three younger siblings.
That has allowed Beau to pursue his passions, including the adrenaline-filled sport of bull riding, and follow in the footsteps of his father, Joe.
As a baby, Beau’s parents took him to watch bull riding, and he loved it so much that his first words were “re-ride”, “buck him” and “go Daddy” as he watched his father compete.
His passion for bull riding is also infectious, so it’s no surprise to hear what he wants to do when he grows up.
“I would probably be a bull contractor providing bulls and horses and things like that,” Beau told Australiabusinessblog Sport.
Sam said Beau was hooked when Beau saw his first rodeo.
“That’s all he was really interested in for a long time, which made it very difficult because we have every rodeo toy out there,” she said.
Beau’s local bull club has supported him by making adjustments to allow the not so average pre-teen 600kg bulls.
Measures include having two support people on either side of the bull and holding Beau to help stabilize him while riding, as well as lifting him up once things get too intense.
And his obsession with rodeo has led him to compete in some of the biggest events in Australia.
He attended a pony club, traveled to Cowboy Camp in Tamworth and has built relationships with people from Australia’s leading bull riding competitions.
This has ensured that Beau has been accommodated at various events so that he can compete as best he can in the sport he loves.
“We have people [who] we’re lucky to be surrounded by them because they’ll make it work for him,” said Sam.
Beating the odds since day one
It’s been a challenging ride for Beau — any surgery, new drug, or procedure can put his life at risk.
His mother fought for her son to have the best medical team possible so that he could have the best quality of life.
With the expertise of his medical team, Beau is no longer able to walk up his driveway without extreme pain, but now has a good quality of life thanks to multiple surgeries and a life-saving clinical trial of drugs.
When Beau was diagnosed with his condition at age 12 months, his family was told he would live until he was five, but he’s been defying all odds ever since.
“Any anesthetic can kill him. Any surgery can” [kill him] – anything goes,’ said Sam.
The bond between Beau and Ryley Batt
Beau lives from day to day and makes the most of every opportunity he has.
When the Tokyo Paralympic Games rolled around, he was fascinated by the fast-paced, tactical sport of wheelchair rugby, with the Australian team led by Australian superstar Ryley Batt.
“We went to the Paralympics,” said Sam.
Beau’s love of wheelchair rugby led to a recent opportunity to act as an assistant coach for the University of Sydney wheelchair rugby team, where he was billed as the world’s youngest coach in the sport.
Wheelchair Sports NSW-ACT is the organization responsible for adding the latest achievement to Beau’s already impressive young life.
WSNSW-ACT travels across the state to deliver sports programs for people with disabilities, reaching metro and regional areas.
The organization met Beau on a trip to Goulburn. Chief executive Mick Garnett was fascinated by the 11-year-old’s story and saw an opportunity to get him involved.
And so it was arranged for Beau and his mother to travel to Sydney for a round of the Wheelchair Rugby National League.
On match day, Beau mingled with Paralympic stars, received his game plan from his fellow coaching mentors, and was ready to roll into the coaching position.
He called timeouts and even gave the team a pep talk at halftime.
He was also able to side with one of his sporting heroes, Australian Paralympic co-captain, Ryley Batt.
“Beau just makes you smile,” Ryley said.
“He’s just a country kid who I don’t think he sees his handicap. And that also reminds me of how I grew up. I think that’s very important.
“Of course there are obstacles, but this kid rides bulls. It’s just crazy.
“I love it when people push their barriers. Let’s look at the possibilities, not the handicaps.”
Sam said she was grateful to have Batt as an influence in her son’s life.
She also joked that she hoped Beau would now focus on wheelchair rugby instead of bull riding, as it was a safer option.
Small town support for big dreams
Beau and his family are overwhelmed by the support they have received from their small town Taralga and the new and ongoing support from Goulburn.
“He’s a celebrity where he doesn’t get bullied,” she said.
“I think if anyone ever tries to bully him, there’s a village of 300 people who say, ‘Knock ’em down [instead]’ said Sam.
The family struggled to access funding through the NDIS, and Beau’s first wheelchair was second-hand.
“There was no chair, so we had cushions for six years. I’d throw him in a wheelbarrow in the paddock if I have to, he’s not worried,” said Sam.
“But he now has a big electric chair. And luckily we have a good team now so we can get what we need. Without our small community it would have been so difficult.”
The city even organized a fundraiser, raising a total of $19,000 to help Beau and his mother come to Sydney for doctor’s appointments and procedures.
“I just love the city,” Beau said.
He added that everyone is willing to help each other.
“People like my mom, and probably my dad, are going to start helping and supporting them, trying to make a difference in some way,” Beau said.
“We couldn’t do without Taralga and now we can’t do without Goulburn,” added Sam.
And Beau has some advice for aspiring young athletes or coaches who want to fulfill their sporting dreams and goals:
Julie Charlton is an elite para-athlete, coach and disability advocate, currently interning with Australiabusinessblog Sport.