At theRCPD Awards and Appreciation Reception in April, four MSU students received recognition from the Athletes with Disabilities Network for their admirable accomplishments and activities. Each student has excelled in their athletic field and been exemplary of the ability to succeed despite obstacles, displaying enthusiasm and perseverance.
Having honored nearly 100 athletes since its establishment in 1999, the Athletes with Disabilities Network is composed of individuals who share a passion for life and a dedication to inspire others through their words, actions, and giving back to the greater community. All recognized men and women have overcome physical challenges to become both elite athletes and superior role models. In2009, the Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame was formally established as a subsidiary of the education, outreach, and advocacy organization Easter Sealsin Michigan, and renamed as the Athletes with Disabilities Network. The organization, which seeks to promote a better quality of life for athletes with physical disabilities, coordinates the international Extremity Games. In the summer of 2008, an ADN scholarship was established to support athletes with disabilities at Michigan State University. The 2010 recipients participate in a range of activities.
McKayla Hanson is a junior studying Kinesiology. After losing her right leg at the age ofseven, she became an avid rock climber in high school. She has competed in the extremity Games, a competition held annually for people with disabilities who liveby the motto, "There's No Replacement for the Competitive Spirit." In her firstcompetition, she took bronze, winning the gold in her second year. "Rock climbing hasbecome my passion and never ceases to bring adventure to my life," she says, "I might have to work a little harder than most but I enjoy the adrenaline rushand it all becomes worth the effort when I can say, ‘I did it.'"Her future career goal is tobecome a physical therapist and assist other people in their development andrecovery from injuries.
JasonDrapinski, a junior in Communication Arts and Sciences, has competed in theWheelchair Hockey League (WCHL) since age 10 after being diagnosed with SpinalMuscular Atrophy at age three. By 16, he was the Deputy Commissioner of theWCHL, continued to play, and is now the Captain of his league team and theAssistant Captain of his travel team. "It's an honor forme to be able to give these things back to my league after all it has given methroughout the years. I still love the thrill and competition of playing powerhockey, but the experience I get volunteering for the league is immeasurable,"he said. In the future, his career will focus in developing digital and videosports games, which can give individuals with and without disabilitiesopportunities to engage in competitive activities.
ElizabethCrumb, a Graduate student in Rehabilitation Counseling, plays wheelchair tennisat MSU and has defied her cerebral palsy with enthusiasm for athletics herentire life. "I havebeen told that my personality speaks louder than the wheelchair that I use,"she says. Originally from New York, she participated in the Empire State Gamesfor the Physically Challenged and partook in athletes with disabilities summercamps. She says that the MSU wheelchair tennis team has enhanced her belief inher ability to do anything and believes in the importance of physical activityfor all. Additionally, she emphasizes the importance of sports as a means ofincreasing disability awareness. "Wheelchair sports are not just about winning,they are about building that self-esteem and bridges to promote advocacy forall individuals with disabilities," she says.
Alicia Paterni is a Graduate student in Rehabilitation Counseling. Following amputation of bothlegs below the knee at age three, she has worn prosthesis for the last 24years. However, this hasn't kept her from swimming, playing outside with herson Ayden, and biking. Last fall, she received an email from MSU tennis coachGene Orlando, who was starting the wheelchair tennis team; although she uses awheelchair after surgery only, she decided it was "the perfect challenge I was looking for to keep me busy," she said, "It was so much fun, and the bestpart was that I finally found something active I could do in my chairthat gave me a good workout and wasn't painful on my prosthesis." In thefuture, Alicia plans to run for the Michigan House of Representatives with afocus on policy development, especially as it pertains to individuals withdisabilities. She is currently employed with Michigan Works.
Eachstudent, though overcoming challenges, has no limit in their drive to succeed.Their participation in sports displays their courage, confidence, and passion,and has positively shaped the way they and others see themselves. Whilerecognition from the Athletes with Disabilities Network is financiallybeneficial, it also serves the purpose of advertising to others that they havebroken stereotypes to participate in activities that many may considerunfathomable.