Jennifer Bricker was born in Romania in 1987. Fate had dealt her a bad hand. The baby with a breathtaking smile and big brown eyes had no legs.
Her parents gave Jennifer up for adoption a few months after she was born. Doctors gave her adoptive mom and dad a bucket to carry her around in. They flat-out refused to use it.
With their encouragement, Jennifer soon learned to walk and run by using her hands and bottom. She loved to climb trees and bounce on trampolines with her older brothers.
Jennifer said, “My parents didn’t treat me differently. So, I didn’t grasp the concept that I was different.”
Growing up in a small community in Illinois, Jennifer was aware of being a Romanian. No one else looked quite like her.
In 1996, the eight-year-old was watching the Atlanta Olympic Games. One of the gymnasts caught her eye.
Dominique Moceanu was the first fellow Romanian Jennifer had ever seen on TV. She was drawn to Dominique because they looked like two peas in a pod.
The gold-winning athlete became Jennifer’s idol. She vowed to become a gymnast like her. She began training, and insisted people treat her equally despite her disability. By the age of 11, she was Illinois’s power tumbling champion.
When she turned 16, Jennifer became curious about her birth family. She asked her adoptive parents if there was anything she should know about them. They said, “Yes! Your biological last name would have been Moceanu.”
The bombshell news turned Jennifer’s world upside down. She instinctively knew what the news meant: Dominique Moceanu was her birth sister.
Four years later Jennifer decided to mail Dominique a letter. She wrote, “I almost could not believe it myself, you had been my idol my whole life, and you turned out to be my sister!”
There was one thing Jennifer left out of the letter. The fact that she didn’t have any legs.
The letter was the biggest shock of Dominique’s life. A few weeks later, Dominique called her sister, Jennifer, for the first time. During the conversation, Jennifer spilled the beans and revealed she had no legs. Realizing the struggles she must have endured, Dominique felt immensely proud of her sister.
They met in person shortly after. Dominique said it was like looking in a mirror. When they shared their life’s stories, Jennifer soon realized the grass is not always greener. Dominique did not have a smooth upbringing. Her father often bullied her and was not supportive. She was constantly humiliated, criticized, and threatened with violence.
Jennifer eventually met her biological mother. She felt no anger towards her. She said the supportive upbringing she received from her adoptive parents gave her “the freedom not to be bitter” and the will to succeed.