Photo caption: Bruce is a recent graduate of the clubfoot program in Burundi. Today he is walking free of disability and playing soccer (or football) with his friends at school.

By Scott Reichenbach

Right now, much of the world has its attention focused on the World Cup taking place in Qatar. It’s a time to celebrate after a long pandemic and marvel at the players’ athleticism. But today, December 3, is also the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The contrast between those playing in the World Cup and those facing a life of disability could not be more stark. 

However, it’s exciting to think that for kids born with clubfoot, a condition that twists the feet inward and downward, playing in a future World Cup is not out of the question if they get treatment early. Many well-known athletes were born with clubfoot, including legendary football quarterback Troy Aikman, one of the world’s best golfers Jon Rahm, and even a former World Cup player from Great Britain, Steven Gerrard. 

Early treatment with straightforward weekly casting can correct clubfoot within two months and free a child to pursue their lifelong abilities and dreams free from disability.  

Every three minutes, a child is born with clubfoot, making it one of the most common congenital disabilities. The good news is it is treatable. 

Experts estimate more than 7 million people today live with untreated clubfoot. That’s more than two times the entire population of Qatar, the small Middle Eastern country currently hosting the World Cup. Qatar spent $220 billion to host this major sporting event. I’m not opposed to these types of events. They are are a great way to bring the world together for a fun activity, but can you imagine if the world focused this much on people living with disabilities? That dollar figure could easily fund the treatment of clubfoot for decades. Generations of kids born with clubfoot would gain the ability to walk, run and play, offering them adult lives full of opportunity.

Sadly, for the millions of adults suffering from untreated clubfoot, their chance of healing is remote. Today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we have a wake-up call. We can ensure kids born with this treatable disability don’t slip through the cracks and instead have a brighter future full of hope. Maybe even a future that will someday see them playing in the World Cup. 

Scott Reichenbach is the president and co-founder of Hope Walks, an international Christian organization with headquarters in Dillsburg, PA, dedicated to ensuring care for all children born with clubfoot and ending disability from this common treatable birth condition.  Hope Walks partners with the existing health system in Latin America and Africa to provide free treatment to these kids. Without such care, playing in a major sporting event, not to mention simply walking down the street to school, would be next to impossible.