Team Long Brothers Show Brotherly Love

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Team Long Brothers

Ten-year-old Conner Long of White House is a pint-size athlete who loves competing in triathlons around the country. But unlike the kids he races against, Conner’s goal is never to win – it’s simply to cross the finish line.

You see, Conner doesn’t run, swim and bike alone. He does all those things tethered to his 8-year-old brother, Cayden, who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk or talk. In triathlons, Conner pushes Cayden in a stroller during the half-mile run, pulls him in a raft in the 100-meter swim and pulls him in a trailer during the 3-mile bike race.

Conner and Cayden are the sons of Jeff and Jenny Long, who also have a 4-year-old son, Cooper. Jenny Long says Conner first came up with the idea of racing with Cayden after seeing an ad for the Nashville Kids Triathlon in 2011.

“Conner asked me if he could do it with Cayden. I didn’t want to tell him no – having a special needs child always makes you look at the possibilities,” Long recalls. “Jeff and I put our heads together and helped him figure out the logistics of how it could work. The race people were great about allowing it. They thought it was amazing. It was a way for them to have fun and do something together.”

Team Long Brothers

Conner had always wanted to play outside and ride bikes with his brother, but the odds were against him – until that first triathlon. Today, the Long brothers have completed more than 20 kids’ triathlons from Florida to California. They are often asked to speak at schools about their story and show other kids what inclusion looks like.

“I wanted to include Cayden in triathlons because I saw he couldn’t do a lot of stuff,” Conner says. “He loves to come with me. Even though he can’t talk, I know he’s having fun ’cause he claps, smiles and laughs a lot. And that makes me proud.”

When it’s time to travel to a race, their mother says Cayden gets so excited that he won’t go to bed the night before.

“He sees us packing and knows we’re preparing for a race. Cayden speaks volumes through his expressions,” she says. “Sometimes we’ve had to get Conner a separate hotel room because Cayden’s so excited, he won’t let him sleep. And Conner needs sleep since he does all the manpower.”

At home in White House, Conner and Cayden find other ways to play together.

“We play on the floor, and we play peek-a-boo,” Conner says. “He likes to go outside, so I push him around the yard.”

In October 2012, the Longs were invited to be guests on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” where anchor Josh Elliott announced that Conner and Cayden had been selected as Sports Illustrated Kids 2012 SportsKids of the Year. They appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids December 2012 issue.

“It was pretty cool – it made me feel good,” Conner says. “My favorite part of being on TV was seeing all the people watching us from outside the building through the glass.”

Team Long Brothers

The Longs traveled back to New York in December 2012, where Conner spoke at the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year ceremony.

“This is really awesome for me and Cayden,” he said at the podium, choking back tears. “A lot of people think we would never be able to do something like this. But we can always do anything.”

Long admits when she and Jeff received Cayden’s diagnosis, there were “a lot of dark moments.”

“We were young parents sitting in a doctor’s office with doctors telling us our child would need our constant care and attention forever,” she remembers. “We didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. But as the years have gone by, we’ve learned so much. It’s been an amazing journey.”

When the boys are invited to speak at schools, Conner’s message focuses on how he and Cayden are alike – not their differences.

“Kids listen attentively and have lots of questions,” Long says. “They see that Cayden is very active in his wheelchair, and he likes to have fun, just like they do. The earlier we start teaching them to love and include others, we begin to plant a seed.”

Conner plans to “definitely” continue racing with Cayden and is gearing up for the 2014 race season. “Never in a million years” did Long think this would be possible for her boys, she says.

“They’re like every other child, but they know different challenges. They get on each other’s nerves sometimes and have to take breaks from each other. But their strength and love is on a whole different level,” she says. “I’m so proud seeing how far they’ve come. Conner will tell you he doesn’t get nervous, but as a mom, I know he does. But he comes out beautiful every time.”

Team Long Brothers

My Team Triumph

Conner and Cayden Long have experienced so much joy racing side by side that in 2013, the Long family launched My Team Triumph: Team Long Brothers of Middle Tennessee. The nonprofit organization is inspiring other individuals to create similar memories and experiences by recruiting Angels (athletes who push/pull disabled individuals in races) and Captains (disabled individuals) to cross the finish line together. My Team Triumph uses donations to purchase specialized racing chairs, rafts, bike trailers and team uniforms for participants and also covers their race entry fees. For more information, visit teamlongbrothers.org.

SportsKids of the Year 2012

Watch Conner and Cayden’s inspiring story below in the Sports Illustrated video that accompanied the Long brothers’ win of SportsKids of the Year in 2012.

1 Comment

  1. Sherrie McLamb

    September 20, 2015 at 11:12 am

    You guys are such amazing young men. I loved watching your story and hope there are follow ups soon. I wish you success in all you attempt.
    Conner, you are a blessing to everyone who sees the love you have for your brother.

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