'Little man' Sanchez Elder left large legacy

By Joe Johnson

Sanchez Elder might have been a little man, but the legacy of his life that recently was tragically ended is huge.

Elder fought a lifelong battle with Achondroplasia, a disorder of bone growth that is characterized by dwarfism and such medical issues as difficulty breathing and eating.

After enduring years of hospitalizations, surgical procedures and therapy, Elder died at age 25, when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver the night of Nov. 23 as he stood on the side of Cherokee Road.

As a newborn that weighed less than two pounds, Sanchez was quickly transferred from the nursery of an Athens hospital to a neonatal intensive care unit in Atlanta.

He underwent numerous surgeries and medical procedures as well as years of therapy.

Carolyn Adams said her son did not begin walking until he was four years old, and even then, he needed more therapy and the assistance of a walker until he was able to get around on his own.

As a child, Adams said that Sanchez required a trach tube to eat and help him breathe.

“I had so much medical equipment that I had to bring around,” she said. “But Sanchez was such a happy boy who brought joy into the lives of everyone he met,” Adams said. “He touched everybody’s heart because he was the first little person they got to see here in Athens.”

Sanchez gained increased independence in recent years, as he was able to walk without assistance, though with bowed legs.

His growth maxed out at four feet, one inch tall.

A graduate of Clarke Central High School, Sanchez participated on a championship Special Olympics team and he belonged to the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

One of his former JROTC instructors recalled Sanchez’s good humor and determination.

“Sanchez would not let his size stop him from doing any task presented to him -- marching on the football field with the color guard, dancing at our military ball with whoever,” Lorenda Harris said. “Christmas parade was my favorite. ‘Boss’ will be missed, but not forgotten.”