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Ryan Chalmers Story
Ryan Chalmers of Churchville, NY has spina bifida. But that has not stopped him from becoming a world-class athlete. As a former member of the Rochester Rockets – the region’s junior wheelchair basketball team sponsored by Rochester Rehabilitation’s SportsNet – Ryan worked hard to develop his skills. Ryan became one of TEAM USA’s star players, and helped his team bring home the gold for two years in a row at the Junior World Games for Athletes with Disabilities in Australia. And he was offered full scholarships by several colleges to recruit him to their wheelchair basketball teams.
The following article is reprinted with permission from Sports ‘N Spokes Magazine. We hope you find it inspiring.
Ryan Chalmers knows it's often more about the journey than the final destination. In his 18 years, he's experienced more along the way than many people more than twice his age. But he knows how fortunate he's been and hopes to one day return some of those blessings to others.
"I want to be able to help other kids experience the great things life has to offer," he says. "Just because we use a chair to get around in doesn't mean we have to just sit there. We can challenge our own abilities while having a lot of fun."
Chalmers was one of nearly 200 athletes who participated at the National Junior Disability Championships (NJDC), held July 21-28 in Spokane. During the event's closing banquet, he received the prestigious Sports 'n Spokes Junior Athlete of the Year Award.
According to his coach, Jo Ann Armstrong, who nominated Chalmers for the award, "Having been a gold-medal Paralympian myself, I can respect and admire our outstanding athletic achievers. However, Ryan Chalmers is so much more. He is an academic, athletic, and community standout in all respects."
She says she has no doubt Chalmers will continue living an independent and fulfilling accomplished life. "His character, behaviors, and attitude will take him far."
Chalmers, who has spina bifida, was born at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, N.H. When Ryan was only a year and a half old, his father left the military and moved his family to Rochester, N.Y., to be closer to family and medical professionals.
Chalmers's first experience with wheelchair sports was at age 6 with the Rochester Rookies track team. His first junior nationals were in 1998 in Bellevue, Wash.
"I remember being in awe when I watched the older athletes compete," Chalmers says. "They showed me what was possible and motivated me to practice harder and remain committed."
When he was 9, Chalmers joined the Rochester Rockets basketball squad; it was the first team sport he tried.
"I fell in love with [basketball] immediately," he says. "I would love to get more young athletes in our area involved in basketball."
Since then he's traveled the world, representing the U.S. He was a member of Team USA that went to the Junior World Games in 2006 (Sydney, Australia), 2007 (Dublin, Ireland), and 2008 (Johannesburg, South Africa).
Reprinted with permission from Sports N' Spoke Magazine September 2007 issue. Written by Arleen Sand. Photo by Mark Cowan.