ST. CHARLES - Ariel Puent has spent her whole life proving people wrong. So it should come to surprise she’s doing it yet again on the softball diamond.
“People thought that I couldn’t do it because I had one arm. So I’d always try to show them and prove them wrong,” said Ariel.
Yup, the 15-year-old started for the St. Charles West girls varsity softball team this year as a freshman … with a right arm that stops roughly near the elbow.
“They’re like ….’she has one arm,’” said Ariel jokingly, referring to the many people who stare at her. “And they’ll like, talk about it. And I’m like, ‘I know what you’re talking about.’”
The condition of Ariel’s right arm is due to Amniotic Band Syndrome, a rare condition that cut off blood flow to her arm while in the womb.
“I was in first grade. I got bullied a lot. And it was really bad. They would put their arm in their shirt, walk around and laugh,” said Ariel.
But Ariel not only soon embraced her arm (which she and her teammates call “Jimmy” by the way), she adapted and gained a tremendous sense of ambition and poise because of it.
“She’s one of the hardest workers that I’ve seen in six years here. She’s unbelievable. She’s willing to do anything to get better,” said John Warnecke, St. Charles West softball head coach. “The P.E. teachers at school, they would always swear that she was one of the best athletes in the building.”
Ariel took up soccer and basketball. But she quickly excelled at softball after she practiced her fielding exchange, moving her glove from her left hand to ‘Jimmy’ as quickly as possible. Rinse and repeat.
“She loves putting on a show. And she’s good at it,” said Chuck Behrman, Ariel’s father.
Behrman said there’s no question his daughter is a role model.
“She doesn’t see herself that way. We do. And a lot of people look to her for inspiration, and how could you not?” he said. “She never gets discouraged. Ever. She never has. She’s never given up. Things are harder for her than it would be for most people. But she never lets that stop her.”
Ariel started in left field for the Warriors for most of the 2017 season while hitting nearly .250.
While her team’s season came to a close Wednesday night, Ariel is still humble, not quite ready to place the ‘inspirational’ tag on herself.
She does want people to know that she sees her arm as a gift and not a disability.
Ariel is humble. She doesn’t see herself as ‘inspiring.’ But she’s also embracing the recent attention and wants others to know that
“No matter what you have going on, if it’s tough, you just like have to overcome it and just do whatever you want to do,” she said. “It just feels really good inside to know that I’m accepted and that they think of me just as one of them.”
© 2017 KSDK-TV