Written by: Amy & Connor Doran
Edited by: Jennifer Owen
It started as a hobby. Pulling a string, defying gravity with every twist and turn of his body, Connor Doran knows how to fly a kite. He enjoyed gliding his kite through the crisp Washington air, but it wasn’t until 2009 that he thought to share his talents with the rest of the country.
His kiting mentor auditioned for America’s Got Talent. While it didn’t work out for him, Connor realized that he should be the next person to represent indoor kiting on the national stage.
Born with epilepsy, Connor was initially exposed to kiting through his mother, Amy. As he began to grow curious about Amy’s hobby, it wasn’t long before he’d mastered the maneuvers himself and in 2010 saw himself auditioning for the reality television show.
He quickly progressed through the rounds and embarked on what became a nine-month journey with America’s Got Talent. Mornings were spent in his school’s cafeteria, a space large enough for his indoor kite flying. Afternoons saw Connor in his school’s gym, always making sure to get at least two hours of practice in per day.
Before performing in front of the judges Connor made sure to map the stage, marking with tape the areas where his kite needed to be flying above. This helped him make the most of the small stage he was performing on, ensuring the graceful flight of his kite was aggrandized by the cameras.
A natural performer, Connor quickly took to the limelight. But no matter how high his kite flies, he always remains grounded.
“I don’t picture myself as a national TV star or disability advocate for millions,” said Connor. “I think of myself as Connor who flies kites, works and has an apartment in Federal Way.”
Inherently humble in nature, Connor still understands what his public presence means to others. Recognizing that his story is inspiring, he feels lucky to represent and bring recognition to epilepsy, anti-bullying and promoting people of all ages to work towards achieving their dreams with his The Dare to Dream Program. With his mother by his side, they often partner with other advocacy organizations in order to raise awareness and funds for groups whose work benefits people with epilepsy as well as other medical conditions.
Describing the show, Amy acknowledges just how much of a catalyst it’s been in their lives.
“It’s been a game changer for us,” said Amy. “I’ve been advocating for him for so many years and now we advocate together as a team. It was then that I was like ‘Oh, maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’”
Beyond traveling for kite festivals and leveraging Connor’s elevated persona for advocacy organizations, Amy also began a career at Northwest Center. Her passion is apparent in every aspect of her work.
“You can’t do this job without caring,” claims Amy. “It’s infused in every part of the work. It’s what motivates you each day.”
Life has been busier since Connor’s debut on America’s Got Talent, but both Connor and Amy wouldn’t have it any other way. The show helped their community grow both locally and nationally, and you can find Connor flying his kite whenever possible. For this duo, the sky is truly the limit.
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.