Hello loyal blog readers! I want to start off by telling you about a moment at one of my most recent camps that really inspired me to write this blog. At my annual camp in Philadelphia, I had the pleasure of meeting a very special 8 year old boy. His story is one of tragedy and triumph. When he was 14 months old, he was shot 4 times in the back as an innocent bystander during a moment too appalling to share. Before coming to my camp, he never played wheelchair basketball or had even been involved in adaptive sports. We did our best to find him a sports wheelchair that fit him. Immediately he was grinning from ear to ear. Throughout the week, his smile was contagious and his enthusiasm and desire to learn made us forget about the sweltering heat. At the end of the week, during one of our breakout educational sessions, we were discussing the Olympics and Paralympics. I asked the athletes if they had been watching the Olympics and they all raised their hands and started talking about Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and everything they had seen on the television the night before. I then asked if anyone knew when the Paralympics began. The first time wheelchair basketball player, our 8 year old I mentioned earlier, looked at me and asked if someday he could be an Olympian. This is a moment that I will keep in my heart forever. Just discussing the Paralympics has given a child the chance to dream that he too could one day be up on that podium with an Olympic gold medal around his neck.
Sports provide us many gifts for those who get to play at the Olympic or professional level. But often times we forget what sports can do for children, especially a child with a disability, who could, for the first time, get a chance to see a true peer compete at the Olympic level and be awarded a medal for their athletic prowess. I'm thrilled to see the coverage that NBC will be dedicating to the Paralympics. But I'm also saddened to see that the growth in adaptive sports and Paralympics in Rio will be faced with hardship unlike what we saw in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
As a professional athlete who runs a nonprofit that works with kids around the world, I hope that Rio can pick up the baton and continue to promote the Paralympics in a positive light, similar to what we saw in Beijing and London. In an event where we are focus on medals, how many gold, silver and bronze each country wins, my lasting image of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio will be a little different. It will be that little boys face when I told him that, yes, he can be an Olympian someday too.
Below is the link to a guest spot I did on Rob Dibble's talk show on ESPN Radio where I talk about the Ryan Martin Foundation, Kevin's Kourt and the upcoming Paralympics.