Everyone who knows Jon Martin knows that he has a deep, abiding love of all things sports, particularly NASCAR and golf, which he’s been playing since he was eight. His encyclopedic knowledge of competitive games extends beyond teams, players and stats to include the very venues where all the action takes place. Show him a picture of a speedway, and he’ll tell you which one it is. Watching the Masters and you don’t know what hole Phil Mickelson is playing, just ask Jon, even though he may have just walked into the room.
By all accounts, Jon, 41, a 15-year Penn-Mar resident, should be in a wheelchair. He was born with cerebral palsy with left hemiplegia that involves paralysis of one side of the body and developmental delays. His parents Martha “Marti” and Nathaniel “Nat” Martin were living in Richmond, Virginia at the time of his birth, and in an ironic twist, Nat, an occupational therapist, had just completed an affiliation with the city’s Cerebral Palsy Center.
“Call it whatever you want – divine intervention,” says Nat. “My experience with the CP Center was a blessing, as it gave us the tremendous basis for understanding and providing Jon with early intervention therapy. He was six months old when he started and today we can’t believe how functional and active he has been.”
Despite his cerebral palsy which has mainly affected his speech, fine motor skills and sensation on his left side, Jon has always been very active, outgoing, and competitive playing a host of sports over the years including softball and bowling with the York Special Olympics, and of course golf, which he plays regularly with either his dad or both his parents. He’s competed in the Special Olympics National Golf Invitational three times, and the year he played in Port St. Lucie, Fla., he took home a gold in his flight.
Not surprisingly, Jon’s love and deep knowledge of sports has prompted him to express to Penn-Mar Residential Supervisor, Ruby Jarrett, who oversees Jon’s home, which he shares with four active roommates, that he would have liked to have been a sportscaster. “That would have been his ultimate dream,” she says. “He watches all sports, and never misses a NASCAR race. Jon knows all the teams, when they’re playing, what their current stats are, and who’s won in the past. It’s amazing what he knows.”
Interestingly, Jon’s passion for NASCAR came via football. During the 1980s Jon was attending therapy in Carlisle, Pa., and on occasion, as a special treat, Marti would take him to watch the Washington Redskins train (Carlisle was their training camp for 34 years). A chance meeting with former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs one year, led to an invitation for Jon to come down to Redskins Park to watch the team practice. Jon became an instant Joe Gibbs fan. When Gibbs retired from coaching in 1992, to focus on his NASCAR team, Jon also made the transition, and has been a loyal NASCAR fan ever since.
For years now, Jon, Marti and Nat have been attending a race a year, which Jon gets to pick out for Christmas. His current favorite driver is “Rocket Man” Ryan Newman, and, as his dad points out, he has a thing for Danika Patrick. This year the family will pack their motor home, which they recently acquired after years of tent camping at the various NASCAR sites, and head down to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. Their trip this coming August 21st coincides with the total solar eclipse that will pass through the center of the U.S., making this year’s trip that much more exciting.
“I used to say Jon would have been a good athlete,” says Nat “No, Jon IS a good athlete.” Marti adds, “He’s slowing down a little bit now, but he still plays golf. His interest in NASCAR has given him another outlet, and an opportunity for all of us to share in an exhilarating experience.”