On the pavement outside where he works at Sand Creek Station golf course, Carson Hayes takes a break from washing carts and practices his boccia.
The game, almost identical to bocce ball, is taking him to Michigan later this summer to compete in an international competition.
Hayes, 25, is 4 feet 3 inches tall. For the first time, he will represent Team USA at the 2013 World Dwarf Games, playing boccia and table tennis.
“I’ve always looked at it as, little people can do anything anyone else can do,” Hayes said. “It might take us longer, more effort, but we’re able to do anything any other athlete can do.”
After competing at the national level yearly with the Dwarf Athletic Association of America, he received an invitation to compete in the games, held every four years across the world. This year, the games will be Aug. 3-10 on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.
“They said, ‘All right, you can be on Team USA,’ ” Hayes said. “I just felt that I had to do it. The opportunity was there to represent the United States, and I couldn’t let that opportunity pass.”
Hayes, a Newton native, said he has been around sports for many years. He said he managed the basketball and volleyball teams at Newton High School, where he graduated in 2006. Whenever he gets spare time, he said, he is practicing for the upcoming games.
“Boccia isn’t really a tremendous sport, but it would mean a lot to win,” Hayes said. “It’s good just to compete against people my own size.”
When he was born, Hayes had bowed legs, which is common among “little people,” he said. In 1998, at age 10, he underwent major surgery to straighten his legs, after which he was in a full-body cast for three months.
He started competing in boccia at national conventions when he was 12, he said, and his performance at past competitions got the attention of Team USA coordinators this year.
Hayes – like all of the athletes competing at the games – had to pay his own way to attend. After sending letters to family members and Newton businesses, he surpassed his fundraising goal of about $2,000 on Wednesday.
He said he will donate all leftover funding to his local and district chapters of the Little People of America Association, of which he is a lifetime member.
Hayes, who has been recognized as employee of the month at Sand Creek Station, is a “fantastic, role model employee,” said Chris Tuohey, Kemper Sports’ regional manager and head golf professional at Sand Creek Station.
“I think Carson’s got the right attitude,” Tuohey said. “To be honest, he’s one of my best here – one of my A-players.”
On the concrete at the golf course and elsewhere, Hayes said he will continue to practice until he takes his nearly 18-hour Amtrak trip to Michigan. Although he’s traveling solo, he said he knows the support is right behind him.
“The response has been great – everyone’s been supportive,” he said. “It’s been kind of crazy.”