Down Syndrome can't stop Bruce Lee fan from achieving his dream

11:48 AM, Jun 1, 2012   |    comments
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LONGVIEW, Wash. (NBC) -- In their Longview, Washington home Dustin Bean and his mom Toni are making one of his favorite sandwiches: ham and cheese with ketchup and mayo and lettuce.

Toni has watched over her son for the last 32 years.

She wasn't sure what the future held when he was born with Down Syndrome.

His genetic condition affects mental and physical development.

"You didn't know what to expect," said Toni Wainwright, Dustin's mom. "I didn't have a clue you know, what to expect with having a Down Syndrome," she said.

When Dustin was a boy, he discovered Bruce Lee movies.

He's been hooked ever since.

Dustin developed an unique focus with the movies, a focus he continues today in his room, memorizing martial arts moves and dialog and performing both along with the movie.

For most people, that would be enough.

But Dustin wanted more.

He began working out with the Academy of Kung Fu.

He quickly moved from a special abilities class to regular classes.

Instructors were impressed.

"I love it," said instructor Hai Huynh. "He's a great student," he said.

Time passed and Dustin's focus increased.

His mom was impressed.

"Dusty would come home and you know, look at the books and the technique he would see. And either on the porch or in his room going over it and over it and you could hear him talk to himself, "Oh no that's wrong," do it this way. And he was just really incredible you know, to see that drive," she said.

Instructors said only one-in-100 or even 200 students will make it to black belt.

It became Dustin's dream.

His mom supported it.

"He's got high expectations of himself, so do we," Toni said. "You know, it's just like something, he doesn't think that he can't do something. He can do anything. Just ask him," she said with a smile.

Steve Larson is a 7th degree black belt and owner of the school.

He said students who reach black belt typically take four years.

Dustin didn't make it in four but he kept trying.

He didn't make it in 8 either, but he stayed focused.

Dustin didn't even make it in 12 years.

But last April, after 13 years, determined not to let his limitations lower his expectations, Dustin earned a black belt in Kung Fu.

"For me it was very emotional. I actually cried," said Larson.

Dustin wasn't surprised, he knew he'd reach his goal.

Larson said Dustin embodies the spirit of the black belt.

"It isn't about just physical skills or it isn't about how smart you are or how well you can memorize, it's really about wanting it bad enough to train for it," Larson said.

And Dustin's not done.

He still loves the movies and the training and now has his sights set on higher levels of black belt.

It's a goal, a focus, Bruce Lee would no doubt appreciate.


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