Our family has grown to be huge fans of wheel chair athletics. It started with noticing athletes training on Windsor Road with orange warning flags flying high.
When the Illinois Marathon began several years ago, we got especially excited to see them in action, even though it meant getting up extra early as they are the first to leave the starting line. We're so not early risers here, friends, so you know we love these guys.
Last summer we had the privilege of meeting several paralympians face to face and geting autographs, touching real medals, and trying out a real racing wheelchair! One paralympian we got to meet was Ryan Chalmers. What a sweetheart! As with the rest of the team, he took time to chat the kids, answer their questions and listen to their encouragement about us watching on our computer and cheering from afar.
Yesterday we met Ryan for another huge event: his arrival to Champaign-Urbana on his trek across the country in his racing wheelchair called Push Across America. We waited about an hour at DRES, but Vinny's Pizza helped pass the time and as did running around on the shaded grassy area. Just about when I thought we might not be able to wait any longer, we heard and saw a campus police motorcycle leading Ryan and many other Illini wheelchair athletes down Oak St. We were thrilled. I couldn't contain my fist pumping. Even Mae was announcing "Ryan coming!"
The kids were eager to ask him questions and Ryan was super gracious again. Bean wondered if he crossed any bridges. Tey wondered if he got cold because it was breezy. Meanwhile, I was chatting with Ryan's coach Adam Bleakney, who is a friend from Bean's preschool days as both our sons attended the same school. WCIA caught this picture of us at the time. Yay, a pic of me with my old school glasses on! Allergy season sucks, but I digress.
Before we left, Ryan agreed to pose for a picture with Bean (the other kids were too shy). Bean really looks up to him and blogged about meeting him. When Ryan was on the radio today, Bean e-mailed in these additional questions. "What do you find difficult and what do you enjoy?" He loved that Ryan remembered him and answered his questions on the air!
Tomorrow Ryan pushes out again, and we plan to be up early to cheer him on as he leaves Urbana and heads east. This young man and all wheelchair athletes totally inspire me. They are great reminders to me about the importance of setting goals and not focusing on what you CAN'T do, but on what you CAN do when you set your heart on something. For myself and being a homeschool mom, I appreciate that message. Thanks, Ryan and best wishes!
Update: We missed him this morning. I wasn't inspired enough to go out in 40 degrees when I've packed away the kids winter clothes already. :( Our best wishes and prayers for safe travels are still with Ryan!