Niko – Reaching for the Top
by A. Kathleen Snow
Thirteen year old Niko Oakley has been motocross racing since the age of six. Despite some medical setbacks, he has been persistent in reaching for his goals and finding success with the support of his family and many others around him.
Niko Oakley started riding dirt bikes at age three, and motocross racing at the age of six. He lived in Scott Township, Pennsylvania with his parents, Jamie and Debbie Oakley, his two siblings, Tommy and Francesca, and his grandfather, George Schlasta. Jamie and Tommy were both motocross racers who taught him how to ride at a young age. When other kids were learning how to ride a bicycle with training wheels, Niko was riding a 50cc motocross dirt bike.
“He was a natural that put in hours of practice,” said Jamie Oakley. “With many first and second place wins under his belt on both the east and west coast, he is still going strong.”
Niko’s parents, siblings, and grandfather, George, have been extremely supportive of his passion for racing.
Debbie Oakley said for those who do not know much about the sport of motocross, it is definitely not for the faint of heart. The sport takes hours of dedication and maturity, and has to be taken very seriously.
“This sport helps you to become self-confident and free,” said Niko. “What a great feeling that is.”
About four years ago, Jamie and Debbie heard something no parent wants to hear about their nine-year-old son, Niko; that he had epilepsy. They first noticed Niko having unusual problems when he woke up one morning before school and started getting ready. He went to his parents and said he thought he passed out in the bathroom. After seeing that the bathroom floor had drool on it, Jamie and Debbie sat and talked with Niko to see if they could make sense of the incident. After Niko explained he sometimes has weird feelings on his face, they were both very concerned and Debbie made a doctor appointment for him. Niko’s doctor referred him to a neurologist who specialized in epilepsy. While waiting to get in to see the neurologist, Niko experienced more seizures. The neurologist diagnosed Niko with epilepsy, which is a seizure disorder of the brain. At that time, the neurologist told Niko and his parents he could no longer participate in motocross racing.
“I remember Niko looking at me and his dad, with tears in his eyes, saying ‘There’s not a chance I’m giving up racing, ’” recalls Debbie. “That is exactly what he did; not give up.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, epilepsy is one of the most common conditions affecting the brain with about 5.1 million people in the United States having a history of epilepsy, and about 2.9 million people having active epilepsy. The amount and type of seizures those with epilepsy have varies with each individual. It can be dangerous to engage in activities, if a person has a seizure they could become seriously injured. It is advised to follow medical recommendations for each individual, according to their severity of the epilepsy. Activities such as driving a car are prohibited in some states unless a doctor issues a document stating the patient has been seizure-free for a specific period of time.
Niko and his parents learned to recognize when he feels an episode coming on so he can stop whatever activity he is involved in.
“It took a lot of hard research learning about the disease as we taught ourselves and Niko how to deal with it,” said Debbie. “As parents, we deal with Niko’s epilepsy one day at a time. Now, thankfully, it is controlled with medication, and even though he still sometimes feels tingling in his face, we know how to handle it.”
Niko was one of the few 50cc riders asked to participate in Amsoil’s National Amateur Arenacross race in 2012 at Southpoint Casino in Las Vegas. Because of the appealing environment and the ability to ride all year long on motocross tracks, unlike Pennsylvania where you are limited to racing in the months of April through October, his family decided to move to Nevada. They rented a home in Las Vegas until they decided to settle down in Mesquite. Niko has found a special liking for the Mesquite MX Motocross Park in Littlefield, Arizona. Once Niko started riding and racing there, the owner of Mesquite MX, Jason Shaw, saw potential in him and decided to fully sponsor him. Over the past eight years, Niko has raced at numerous events, taking home many first, second, and third place trophies.
Niko also likes to challenge himself in other areas. He recently participated in the Reebok Spartan Race at the Mesquite MX Park in Littlefield, Arizona on March 18-19. The race is an obstacle course in which runners make their way through mud, fire, walls, barbed wire, and other terrain difficulties. Niko placed third on the eighteenth and first on the nineteenth.
Debbie said what lies ahead for Niko is a wonderful journey. Because of motocross, Niko had an amazing experience in the summer of 2016. He auditioned for, and was chosen for a role in the movie Drop Off, a Doty-Dayton Production written by Lyman Dayton. Niko also worked with stunt coordinator, Jeff Chumus. He played the role of the stunt Mx rider for the main character. During filming, Debbie said Niko would tell her and Jamie that he can do whatever the actors were doing. Ever since, he has desired to be in the film and modeling industry. He got his wish, and will be heading to Los Angeles, California for his first photo shoot at the end of March. He has signed with two talent agencies, one for film and modeling, and one for sports. “From there it will be up to Niko to live out his dreams as his parents help him through this phase of his life,” said Debbie. “I am sure everyone will be hearing more about Niko in the near future.”
You can visit Niko’s website at www.nikooakley88.com, or look him up on YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram.
**Note: It is important with any chronic medical condition to follow your doctor’s advice according to each individual’s circumstance and health needs.