How Tobias Bass' wish to run with his brother touched more people than he could've imagined

by Jenni Carlson Published: January 11, 2014

EDMOND — Titus Bass wrestles on the floor, roughhouses on the couch and wants to go outside every chance he gets.

Typical of a 12-year-old boy.

Except that Titus isn't typical.

Cerebral palsy and other medical issues caused by his premature birth left Titus with severe disabilities. He can't walk, hear or eat. But now, thanks to a little brother with a big heart and some generous strangers, Titus can feel what it's like to run.

Tobias Bass wants other kids like his older brother to be able to experience the same feeling.

He needs some help, though.

But before we get to that, we need to rewind to September and a letter written to a couple of local TV news anchors. Tobias wanted to push Titus in a 5K, but the family didn't have anything big enough or sturdy enough. What happened after Tobias carefully printed out a three-page letter asking to borrow a jogging stroller has surprised the entire family.

The ripples touched many.

Tobias wants them to continue, fulfilling a vision the 11-year-old outlined in his letter.

I will volunteer myself out to any other parents who want me to run their disabled children in a 5K.

I can be the legs for more than one kid.

* * *

Titus Bass wasn't expected to leave the hospital alive.

Born more than three months premature, he weighed only a pound. The tips of his fingers and toes turned black for a time because blood wasn't circulating to them. He spent nine months in the neonatal intensive care unit but was eventually able to go home.

His mom calls him a miracle.

Only a couple months after Titus left the hospital, Contessa Bass was back to give birth to Tobias.

She calls him a miracle, too.

“Tobias was born different,” she says. “He's not been the average child.”

Contessa, a single mom who teaches special education at John Marshall, remembers trips to Walmart when Tobias was young. With three older sons, she was used to hearing, “I want, I want, I want,” but when she told Tobias that they weren't getting something, there was never a tear, much less a tantrum.

“That's all right,” Tobias would say. “I don't need anything.”

He had a maturity and a sensitivity that was always far beyond his years.

A couple years ago when Contessa and her boys moved to Legacy Station, an Edmond neighborhood of tidy brick homes built by Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, Tobias became enamored with a man with disabilities who lives a few doors down. The man rides a three-wheeled bike and rarely speaks to anyone, but Tobias found out that the man's entire living room is filled with Legos.

“How could you not say that's the greatest man in the world?” he asked his mom.

Every Friday, Tobias uses his own money to buy pizza and soda and delivers it to the man's door.

Even though Tobias has a big heart for others, he's most attuned to and compassionate toward Titus. The brothers have a relationship that sometimes defies logic.

There have been times when they will be sitting on the couch watching TV, and Tobias will go to the kitchen, get apple juice out of the refrigerator and bring it back for Titus.

“Why did you do that?” Contessa will ask.

“Oh,” Tobias will say, “Titus wants it.”

“How do you know that?”

“Titus just let me know.”

“He can't talk.”

“Well, you're just not listening, Mom.”

But when it comes to going outside, Titus has never left anyone with any doubt about what he wants. He will crawl to the door and just stare out the window. He will holler if he sees neighborhood kids playing. And if Contessa and Tobias are getting ready to go to football or jujitsu practice, they have to put Titus in his room with the nurse who comes to help the family a few hours a day and hope he doesn't realize where they're going.

“If Titus saw us get in that car and leave ... ” Contessa says, “he would cry horribly.”

When they take Titus with them to practice or games, he always wants to get on the field or mat. Contessa worries about his safety, but Tobias always looks for ways to include him.

“I don't want him living life on the sideline,” Tobias says. “I want him living life in the game. He needs to actually live a life.

“He needs to have a bucket list.”

“Oh, wow,” Contessa says.

“A bucket list,” Tobias continues. “You know how we have bucket lists?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, we're not the only ones that get one. Titus needs one of those, and he needs to live his life.”

* * *

Tobias realized he could help Titus live his life a little more last year when he saw a TV segment about Team Hoyt.

For more than 30 years, Dick Hoyt has pushed his disabled and wheelchair-bound son, Rick, in races. 5Ks. Half marathons. Marathons. Triathlons. Even ironmans. Together, they've finished more than a thousand events.

Tobias decided he wanted to do an ironman with Titus.

One problem: you can't do an ironman until you're 18 years old.

So, Tobias decided to start like the Hoyts did and run a 5K. A race at John Marshall where his mom works seemed the perfect place to start.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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WANT TO HELP?

Tobias Bass is looking for help in his wish to push disabled kids in 5K races. Are you willing to run? Do you have a jogging stroller that could be used?

Contact Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson at jcarlson@opubco.com or (405) 475-4125.

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