Barney and ‘The Rock’ give a reason to believe, escape

There was a time when I revered Barney the Dinosaur as a god – a big, purple protector of dreams who just happened to have some dance moves.

At 5 or 6 years old, watching “Barney and Friends” was the only reason for my existence. My eyes would pop out of their sockets as I watched him and Baby Bop go on their adventures.

I was just as relieved and excited as they were when they found Baby Bop’s lost puppy – or whatever they were looking for in a given episode. I remember coming home from school every day hoping to catch the rerun.

At the time, I didn’t know or understand much about my cerebral palsy. I was so worried about sitting up straight and doing everything everyone told me to do that I needed an escape from reality.

In my mind, Barney and his crew were real. I didn’t care what my dad or older brother said. They’d tell me that Barney was just an actor in a big, sweaty costume, but I didn’t believe it.

I didn’t until I was at least 10 or 11. That show and its characters were a huge part of my reality until then. I held them in high regard because I believed in them – and they made me happy.

I didn’t want anyone bursting my bubble before it was ready to be popped. I needed to pop it in my own time and on my own terms.

That would become true of most things in my life. As I got older, I realized those things were what set me apart from everyone else.

I went from playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures to watching musclemen wrestle in spandex underwear. I never gave much thought to how strange that was – because again, I believed those things provided an escape.

I still do, even though the action figures have found their place on a shelf. In that process, however, I became more aware of my circumstances – and how my disability can often become the proverbial monster under my bed.

We all have a moment in life when we have to suspend reality and just go with what makes us happy. Sometimes that means letting go of our Barney the Dinosaurs and replacing them with something human.

I think that’s partly why now, I hold Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steve Carell and Ellen DeGeneres so high. As weird a “dream team” as they make, their charm, humility and humor make me look inside myself every day.

I never get sick and tired of singing their praises – and haven’t thought of myself as crazy for spending the last 20-some years sending out letters, Facebook posts and tweets about them.

They help me tame the monster that’s inside me and that’s more than reason enough for me to believe. Admittedly, I believe in them more than I believe in myself sometimes.

No one told me to believe in them. I found my own reasons. They’re a far cry from Barney, but they sing and dance like nobody’s watching.

My friends and family know how this story ends. For those who don’t, I’ll just say it pays to be dorky and different.

After all, you gotta be crazy once in a while, right?

Erin Kelly, 28, was born with cerebral palsy in Seoul, Korea and now lives in Altoona. E-mail her at