Challenge Accepted: The Curkendall Family


Photos and Story by Alyssa Greenberg The Curkendall family proves that disabilities aren’t always debilitating.

At 16 years old, Renee Curkendall told her mother that when she grew up, she would have six children with special needs. When she met her husband, Peter, a former Penn State football player, she warned him not to ask her out unless he was up for the challenge of her long-held dream. Now in her mid-40s, Renee and Peter have six children between the ages of five and 21, four of whom are adopted. Five of the children have significant physical and developmental impairments.

Along with the challenges of raising a large family, Renee and Peter face unique difficulties. "I have to admit we have more on our plate than I anticipated,” Renee says. “But I wouldn't trade it for a minute.” Annette, the oldest at 21 years old, has Cerebral palsy and developmental delays, and is HIV-positive. Joshua is their 16-year-old biological child with epilepsy. In addition, he is hearing impaired, has developmental delays, and has survived a brain tumor. Trayvon, a 12-year-old, has congenital heart defects. Marriela, 9 years old, was born prematurely at 26 weeks; she has severe anxiety and has bipolar disorder, with developmental delays. Cody is their 6-year-old biological child and has no disabilities. Lastly, Sergio, at 5 years old, has intestinal failure, vision impairment, and severe developmental defects.

Earlier this year, the family received a call that there was a new heart awaiting Trayvon in New York City. He flew the next day to Children’s Hospital of New York for a transplant. He’ll be there for three months to recover. Trayvon moved to the Ronald McDonald House at the end of March, where he is able to interact with other kids and do more activities than a hospital allows. Trayvon is breathing without the use of any tubes for the first time in his life. His siblings constantly ask when he'll be back and are looking forward to his homecoming.

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