Wheelchair travel forms bond between native and visitor



When Ryan Chalmers, 24, arrived in Newton on Saturday, it marked the 35th day of his 71-day journey across America in his racing wheelchair.

Although Chalmers planned to continue through Marion County on Saturday, Torey Hett of Marion asked if he might consider staying until Sunday morning and take part in the Challenge Games at Derby.

Like Hett, Chalmers also was born with spina bifida, which is an incomplete closure of the spinal column, and means they do not have complete use of their legs.

With Chalmers averaging 60 to 70 miles a day since starting his journey April 6, one of the first questions Hett asked Chalmers was if he became sore traveling those distances.

?He told me the first week he was, but that now he is getting used to it,? Hett said.



Chalmers said: ?Knowing when to take breaks and when to shut down is important.?

Hett said another interesting fact he learned about Chalmers is his fastest speed in the racing wheelchair was 53 mph.

At the Challenge Games in Derby, Hett said Chalmers helped with the races and spoke to the athletes and their families.

?He was busy talking to a lot of people and right in the beginning he helped line the little kids up for racing,? Hett said.

Hett said even though he competed in the Challenge Games from 1993 until 2004, he wasn?t sure how Chalmers and his team came up with the design of his racing wheelchair.

Hett said Chalmers? wheelchair has one wheel in the front and the back two wheels are slanted.

?He uses his arms like a push-by-hand wheelchair,? he said.

Hett, along with others at the Challenge Games were glad Chalmers could take time from his quest to offer inspiration to so many others who share similar challenges.

Chalmers said his motivation for ?Push Across America? stems from his desire to encourage others to take on challenges and then give back to individuals and organizations that have made a difference in their lives.

?To touch people?s lives and give back to an organization that has changed his life?Ryan?s a great ambassador for persons of all ages as he?s a young man who exemplifies the messages he so honestly delivers,? one team member said.

Those messages included never giving up, always doing your best and making a difference.

?The campaign is about building awareness for the potential of all persons with disabilities,? Chalmers said. ?The visibility ?Push Across America? receives will help in communicating that message in a meaningful way.?

Thus far, Chalmers has completed about 1,450 miles of the 3,000-mile adventure.

Hett also carries a message of hope to others by accepting various speaking engagements to talk about his struggles and successes.

On Friday, Hett said he went to Hillsboro Elementary School to talk with children about how he has learned to live with his disability, and that he can enjoy many of the same activities as anyone else.

For more information about Chalmers or to follow him on his journey, visit PushAcrossAmerica.org.






















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