HOUSTON – The southwest Houston community is celebrating the accomplishments of two young men and a family who have overcome incredible odds.
On Wednesday, two 18-year-old cousins participated in National Signing Day together after working hard for years to achieve their goals despite a tragedy that changed the lives of their family forever.
Peter Berry was 9 years old when he lost his mother and father in a car accident in July 2011 while they were coming home from a family vacation to Colorado. A car swerved into the family's minivan, killing Robin and Josh Berry.
Peter Berry's then-6-year-old sister Willa survived with broken bones. Peter and his then-8-year-old brother Aaron were paralyzed from the waist down. The three siblings lived with Peter Berry's uncle and aunt, Matt and Simone Berry, who opened their doors and soon had a blended family with five children.
Peter Berry's best friend and cousin, Noah Berry, grew up learning life lessons they would take with them on the courts. Peter Berry took up basketball at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hotwheels. Noah Berry took up tennis at Emery Weiner.
"It really shows that despite your circumstances, you really can accomplish anything," Peter Berry said.
"It's truly inspirational because you have the most amazing inspiration story living downstairs in your house," Noah Berry said. "I mean ... every day to wake up and see somebody who has overcome so much ... it really pushes you to be the best that you can be."
One big family
Both Berry boys said that their guardians have had a huge impact on their work ethic and attitude.
"My parents are really the ones that made this happen," Noah Berry said.
Matt and Simone Berry could not be prouder of their boys. The couple said their children had to grow up fast. While the accolades on the courts were important, they hoped to raise their children to value something even more important.
Those values: "Honesty, integrity, being inclusive, kindness," Simone Berry said.
"The most important thing is how they are as human beings," Matt Berry said.
Those values took the two young men far in their athletic careers.
"Noah is listed as a top 100 five-star recruit in the USA," said Dave Green, Emery Weiner's head tennis coach.
"Peter is three times over an all American. We'll make it four soon," said Trice Ham, TIRR Memorial Hermann Hotwheels Basketball head coach. "He's the best player in America unquestionably.
"Peter, your skills in basketball are going to take you all over this world and I can't wait to watch it," Ham continued. "Your hard-earned free education from the University of Alabama is going to give you many opportunities in this life. I can't wait to see what you do with them. But your grit, perseverance, work ethic, compassion and love for others are going to let you do anything you want in this world and I can't wait to see the way you change it."
A dream come true
Wednesday at Emery Weiner in southwest Houston, Peter and Noah Berry were surrounded by family, students, coaches and friends for a huge milestone.
The Berry cousins were side-by-side as they signed with colleges. Peter signed on to play Division 1 Wheelchair Basketball at the University of Alabama on a full-ride scholarship. Noah Berry signed on to play Division 1 tennis at Cal Poly.
"We live under the same roof, and we're doing this together," Peter berry said. "It's pretty remarkable."
"I'm excited to keep working hard for the next step," Noah Berry said, smiling.
Perhaps, however, the most impactful thing these two young men have shown people is the determination to overcome anything.
"Stick your chest out and have your head up," Peter Berry said.
"When a family experiences something that should, hypothetically, pull everybody apart and break something, and we were able to stick together through that, it really pulls everyone closer, and it kind of creates a bond that (is unbreakable)," Noah Berry said.