Calgary

'He is my idol': Haitian boy inspired by Calgary drummer with no arms

A Calgary man with no arms and a Haitian boy with cerebral palsy have little in common besides their shared love of drumming. After meeting earlier this month, the two have forged a special friendship.

11-year-old Luc Huxter, who has cerebral palsy, meets Alvin Law — and a jam session ensues

Luc Huxter keeps time on the drum pad gifted to him by his inspiration, Alvin Law. (Dave Rae/CBC News )

Alvin Law and Luc Huxter are the unlikeliest of friends. 

Law is a 50-something husband and father living in Calgary. 

Huxter is an 11-year-old orphan from Haiti.

Their friendship has been forged on a love of music and an unrelenting will to exceed whatever expectations society put on them.  

Law was born without arms in 1960 in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, after his birth mother took the morning sickness drug thalidomide during pregnancy. 

He was raised by no-nonsense foster parents. "Mom was not an average mom," Law says. "She was one of those people that didn't care if I had no arms and pushed to where she would teach me things like sewing." 

I used to bang on pots and pans with wooden spoons.- Alvin Law 

She didn't have to teach young Alvin about rhythm; it came naturally. 

"Apparently, when I was three years old I used to bang on pots and pans with wooden spoons on Saturday morning to the test pattern on CBC Television." 

As with every other task, Law used his feet to bang the cookware.

When his parents bought him a used drum kit at an auction at the local Royal Canadian Legion, it would set him on a path that would change his life.

'He'll never see...walk...talk'

Decades later and thousands of kilometres away, a young mother in Haiti was in early labour and unbearable grief after watching her husband and children swept to their deaths in raging floodwater. 

Not long after giving birth to a three-pound baby boy nearly three months before his due date, she fled the hospital.

That's when Karen Huxter's phone rang. 

She is a Newfoundlander who founded and runs the orphanage Hands Across the Sea in Haiti. 

The orphanage was in the middle of construction and Huxter was in no position to take in a premature newborn.

"They said, 'If you don't take him, he'll be dead in two days.' I said I'll come and look." 

She not only took the baby in, she decided to adopt him. 

Karen Huxter holds baby Luc, the son she adopted and raised without limitations despite his cerebral palsy. (Karen Huxter )

Luc had no ability to suck and had to be fed with a syringe. By the time Luc was five months old, Huxter realized there was something seriously wrong. He appeared to be blind and deaf and wasn't hitting any of the milestones expected of an infant. Huxter took Luc to a pediatrician in Haiti, who diagnosed Luc with cerebral palsy. His words outrage her to this day.

"He said, 'Madam, if he is not seeing now, he'll never see, never walk, never talk.'" She repeats the man's devastating words: "Just throw him away, and if you want to help someone in my country, Madam, you'll find one that matters." 

'Just throw him away.  Find one that matters.' - Haitian  pediatrician  

After a good cry in the car, Huxter vowed to raise her adopted son without limits.

And he exceeded all expectations; he is neither deaf nor blind and he can walk, recently mastering stairs. 

Just like Alvin Law, Luc Huxter always seemed to be keeping beat with his feet.

As Luc grew up in Haiti, Law had already become an accomplished drummer and motivational speaker in Calgary. Videos of him playing the drums with his feet are popular on YouTube, where British broadcaster Channel 4 found him and asked him to be in a spectacular advertisement for the 2016 Paralympic Games.  

Last year, on a visit to Huxter's home province of Newfoundland, Luc spotted that ad with Law playing the drums. "He was watching the Paralympics — well, he was so excited," Huxter recalls. "Then he focuses on Alvin. 'Mom, he's doing it with his feet! Mom, I can do that, too!'"

Like Law, Luc was known for tapping out a rhythm everywhere he went, from home to church. So his mom emailed Law and arranged a meeting.

'He is my idol'

The Huxters and the Laws finally met earlier this month in Calgary. Alvin Law gifted Luc Huxter with a set of drum sticks and a drum pad. 

Each took a drum stick between his toes for an impromptu jam on the drum pad, making a joint rhythm with their free feet banging the hardwood floor.

Luc Huxter, 11, keeps time on the drum pad gifted to him by his inspiration, Alvin Law 0:37

Law remembered his youth and a mother who refused to let him be disadvantaged by his disability. "They believed I would find everything in my life if I went for it," Law says. Seeing Luc was like a "flashback into a time when I didn't know I could [do this], and here I have." 

His new 11-year-old pal is still working hard on controlling a body that doesn't always co-operate. 

But his mind is quick, and perhaps because of the many challenges he has already faced, he is able to distill their friendship  into a few words.

"It is precious and special," the boy says with a grin that is rivalled only when he's engaged in two activities: drumming or thinking about the day he will drive a car with his feet, like his friend Alvin. "He is my idol." 

About the Author

Carolyn Dunn

National reporter

Carolyn Dunn is a longtime national reporter for CBC News. Her Canadian postings and assignments have taken her from St. John's to Calgary. She has reported extensively abroad including East, West and North Africa and has done several tours in Afghanistan. Have a story tip? Email carolyn.dunn@cbc.ca.