Logan Swedberg is a sports fanatic, so friends and family celebrated his 11th birthday with a baseball game and a barbeque. But it's his impressive golf game that earned him some celebrity status.
Logan's prowess on the links is featured in a television commercial for Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. It's even more impressive considering that the Lakeville fourth-grader has undergone extensive surgeries to straighten his spine and reshape his feet.
Logan is the new celebrity at the center of Gillette's "Cure Pity" campaign. It's a provocative marketing strategy for the specialty hospital that challenges the public to admire the accomplishments of disabled children rather than pity their struggles.
Gillette is asking people to watch the television ad and sign its "Cure Pity" pledge at Curepity.org. Nearly 1,000 people have already signed.
"The goal of the Cure Pity campaign is to help change the way the world sees kids who have disabilities. Children who have disabilities don't want -- or need -- pity. They need people to see them for what they can achieve," explained Patty Dunn, Gillette's public relations manager.
Founded in 1897, Gillette was the first hospital in the nation for children who have disabilities. The St. Paul hospital now serves more than 24,000 patients annually and includes a cadre of pediatric specialists, including orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, plastic and reconstructive surgeons and rehabilitation staff.
Logan is a bit bashful about his high-profile role, describing it simply as "awesome." But his doctors and parents say his resilience and his upbeat attitude epitomize the "Cure Pity" movement.
In the television ad, Logan plays golf with his grandfather. Logan misses a putt by a few inches. He asks his grandfather, "Is that good?" His grandfather shakes his head no. Logan feigns a look of slight disbelief at his grandfather's exacting standards and then sinks the putt.
"It's pretty amazing what kids can do that sometimes have different challenges," said Logan's mom, Tara Swedberg. "I think Gillette is awesome and it was just an honor to be asked."
"It's really neat to see what they've done not just for Logan but for everyone else," said Logan's dad, Todd Swedberg.
A rare disability
The Swedbergs recall the day their middle son was born. He was taken to the neonatal intensive-care unit and doctors feared a mass in his abdomen was cancer. Tests later revealed that Logan was born with a chromosomal abnormality so rare that it doesn't even have a name. The ends of two chromosomes are flip-flopped, which resulted in two clubfeet, a cleft lip and palate, the large mass in his abdomen, and the later development of scoliosis and kyphosis, a complex spinal curvature that put dangerous pressure on his heart and lungs as he grew.
Everyday activities, even breathing, became a constant struggle.
His parents researched treatment options, even taking their son to the Mayo Clinic, before deciding to pursue treatment at Gillette.
In a first-of-its-kind procedure that spanned eight months, Gillette surgeons attached a halo to Logan's skull, which straightened his spine. Logan then underwent spinal fusion, using bone from one of his ribs to support his spine.
Todd Swedberg remembers the first days of recovery when Logan was immobilized in a hospital bed, in and out of consciousness, and unable to speak because of a tube down his throat.
"It was hard. Sometimes he'd wake up and look at you. You'd sometimes see a tear," Todd Swedberg said.
He spent months in the hospital recovering with frequent visits from his younger sister, Emma, and older brother, Zach. He attended school at the hospital, occasionally Skyping with his classmates at Cherry View Elementary. He spent much of second grade at the hospital.
Gillette staff, family and friends worked to lift Logan's spirits.
Logan had an ongoing video-game competition with one of the younger doctors and was thrilled when Abby, the family dog, was given a canine visitor's pass.
After his release, Logan wore the halo for another five months. He went to school, golfed and played with friends.
"Throughout it all, he's never been a complainer," Todd Swedberg said.
One of the kids
Logan is now between procedures, so he's free to tinker in the yard and roughhouse with his kid sister. He will undergo more surgeries as he grows.
Teachers showed Logan's commercial to his classmates at school. His parents say he has a strong network of friends there.
"They thought it was awesome and cool," Logan said.
The children may not be able to articulate the reasoning behind the "Cure Pity" campaign, but they often comprehend it better than adults, said Cherry View Principal Paul Helberg.
"The kids don't think, 'Poor Logan.' They kind of live that slogan," Helberg said.
During a kickball game at school, Logan was fair game with the other children working hard to tag him out, Helberg said.
"He is a resilient kid. He works hard," Helberg said. "I feel fortunate to have him at my school."
Shannon Prather is a Twin Cities freelance writer.