Orlando Pride soccer player Carson Pickett said growing up she didn’t have anyone who looked like her to look up to and she’d often feel stared at in public settings.
When she met 2-year-old Joseph Tidd, she became the role model she always wished she had. Both Pickett and Todd were born without a left forearm and have shared a special relationship as a result.
“Literally within five minutes of me meeting him, we had an instant bond,” Pickett told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “It’s interesting, though, because for a kid that young, I didn’t expect him to connect the way he did. Even though we both have the same arm (birth defect), it was amazing to me that it felt like he realized why we were bonded.”
Pickett met the toddler for the first time in April for a game and the Pride shared video footage in which Pickett bent down to show her arm to Tidd, who lit up with an instant smile as the two had an emotional exchange and Pickett began tickling Tidd as well as fistbumping and high-fiving.
That connection carried over at a game on Sunday, when Joseph’s mother, Colleen, captured a moment with the two bumping elbows and smiling. The photo quickly went viral.
“Honestly the best part of the photo is that it was so real and wasn’t planned,” Pickett said. “It was the true pure reaction we both had.”
While Tidd’s parents, have shared publicly that their son sees himself in the 25-year-old defender, Pickett said it works both ways.
“I know I might be seen as his role model, but he’s also mine,” Pickett said. “It’s just a gift to feel so much emotion from a little boy who understands you in a way other people can’t.”
Pickett, who is associated with the Lucky Fin project to promote inclusion for children with similar experiences to her own, added that she relishes the opportunity to be a face to whom Tidd and other children can relate.
“Pictures mean a lot so hopefully when he gets older he can see that and feel even more of what it means,” Pickett said. “When I was younger and I didn’t know how the world works, it was hard. My parents always tell me that God put me here for a reason. The biggest thing I’d want Joseph (and others) to know is that even if people see you as different, it’s what’s in your heart that counts.
“This is something that is much bigger than soccer,” Pickett added of her relationship with Tidd. “It’s hopefully a lifelong friendship.”