Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Paradox Sports[TM]

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Paradox Sports[TM]

Article excerpt

Malcolm Daly was mountain climbing in Alaska in 1999, attempting to scale an ice route no one had mastered before, when he fell 200 feet and shattered both legs. By the time his partner returned with help two days later, Daly's feet were frozen solid. One was eventually amputated.

Daly recently became executive director of Paradox Sports, which provides "inspiration, opportunities, and adaptive equipment" for athletes with disabilities who crave the thrill of "human-powered outdoor sports" such as mountain biking, kayaking and surfing.

"What we're trying to do is help people with disabilities be normal," says Daly, who previously owned a climbing gear company and has helped jump-start several national non-profit groups. "There are a lot of adaptive programs out there that provide services, but for people who participate in them, it's much more like simply going on a ride or attending an event than it is doing something for yourself. So what we want to do is [help] that percentage of people who aren't happy with that situation and who want to be able to go back and do the activities they did before their trauma, with the people they did it with, whenever they feel like doing it."

Launched in early 2007, Paradox Sports is the brainchild of Army Capt. D.J. Skelton, who became an advocate for wounded soldiers after he was seriously injured in Iraq, and Timmy O'Neill, a professional climber who once ascended the daunting El Capitan peak in Yosemite National Park with his brother, a T-12 paraplegic, and later lost his ice climbing partner in an accident.

One day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., a fellow wheelchair user who had lost both legs started questioning Skelton, who'd started rock climbing again. How could he do it too?

Skelton called O'Neill, they quickly assembled a climbing program at a gym in nearby Sterling, Va., and a dozen patients at Walter Reed signed up. Three months later, the first official Paradox Sports event took place in Boulder, Co. (now home to the organization's headquarters), when climbers with disabilities raised money to promote awareness of ovarian cancer. Paradox now supports, among other things, an annual 10-day wilderness fly-fishing trek in Alaska and a weeklong bicycle ride in Iowa.

Surprisingly, about 50 percent of those who take part in the hard-core programs are women. "There are so many more things going on with women, particularly in regards to body image when you lose a body part or are disfigured in some way," Daly points out. …

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