United Ability’s abiliTEE Golf Classic is all about two hand waves and fist bumps

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United Ability
The Fleury family. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

If you are a golfer participating in United Ability’s annual abiliTEE Classic Golf Tournament, April 22nd at Robert Trent Jones Oxmoor Valley, be prepared to receive some awesome two-hand waves, fist bumps and smiles.

That’s what I learned when I sat down with Brian and Courtney Fleury, and their son Jamey on a recent visit to their home to talk about the upcoming abiliTEE Golf Classic

Now, I’ve got to confess, the Fleury’s and I really didn’t talk much about the golf tournament. Brian has signed up for abiliTEE. He enjoys the game, and can’t wait to see supporters throughout our community spend time together on the links. 

United Ability
United Ability’s Chris Biggins (in the center) readies for the abiliTEE on April 25, 2019. Photo courtesy of United Ability

The gifts from the community mean so much to the Fleurys and the 5,492 adults and children United Ability served in 2020

Individuals and companies can still sign up to participate or sponsor abiliTEE. 

But like almost every visit I have with a United Ability family, Brian and Courtney wanted to tell me about their journey and the impact this special organization has made on their lives. Here is their story.

Light Up the Room

United Ability
The Fleury family. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

The minute I entered the Fleury home, Courtney warned me… be ready for some two-hand waves and fist bumps from Jamey!.  We met early on a Saturday morning, and she was right. Jamey greeted me with a smile, two hand waves and yes, fist bumps.

A Journey Worth Taking

We all sat down, together in the living room. I turned on my tape recorder. Brian looked at me and said:

“We found out that Jamey was going to have Down syndrome when Courtney was 14 weeks pregnant. There was obviously a lot of shock. We were not expecting it, that kind of a diagnosis. It was a tough time for us.”

In addition to Down syndrome, the doctors expected him to have a heart condition and the need to perform facial reconstruction surgery after he was born. 

“Heart defect and possible facial structure issues, you never want your kid to go through that,” Brian said. “That was probably the toughest part, the idea of him being born and then immediately having to go through all those things.”

Courtney added, 

“That news was quite low for us. Lots of tears,” Courtney added. “But it is a journey, a journey worth taking.”

After the Diagnosis – A Visit to United Ability

United Ability
United Ability main office off Lakeshore Drive. Photo courtesy of United Ability

Courtney said she was blessed to have a very supportive employer who gave her the flexibility to make twice-weekly doctor visits and spend time allowing her to stare at her computer in shock and disbelief. 

During the weeks after the diagnosis, several things fell into place. They were embraced by a community of parents whose children have Down syndrome. They also learned about United Ability.

The Fleurys got hooked up with the organization through a colleague of Brian’s who serves on the board. Courtney also discovered her sister had volunteered there two decades ago. They soon were given a tour before Jamey was born. Even though they were still in shock, the staff at United Ability allayed their fears. 

“They said, okay, this is no big deal, we’ve got this, it isn’t anything we haven’t seen before,” Courtney remembered.

“I think we take for granted the resources that we have in Birmingham for kids with special needs,” Brian observed. “There are bigger cities out there that don’t have nearly the kind of resources or a facility like United Ability or the Hand in Hand Early Learning Program where Jamey attends pre-school. “

A Special Big Sister – I Want an Extra Chromosome! 

United Ability
Drawing by Kate Fleury. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

While I was conducting the interview Jamey’s big sister Kate entered the room. She had been working on a drawing to show us. 

A special big sister, Courtney said she has been like a 2nd mom to Jamie. She then told the story of how they waited to tell Kate about her little brother having Down syndrome. They made it a celebration, buying t-shirts and holding a party. Jamey’s sister had the perfect reaction.

United Ability
Kate and Jamey Fleury at home. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

“She (Kate) was jealous that he had an extra chromosome! Courtney said, bringing laughter to everyone in the room. “She sees him as Jamey and it’s no big deal.” 

Meet Brian at abiliTEE

United Ability
Jamey Fleury giving a fist bump. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Jamey, who is now two and half years old has bounced back quickly from heart surgery and does not need facial reconstruction work. He will not be at United Ability’s Golf Tournament on April 22nd to give two-hand waves and fist bumps, but his dad Brian will be there. 

He will gladly tell you about his remarkable family, United Ability, and his brave and precious son Jamey who has enriched the lives of everyone around him – with a wave and fist bump.

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Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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