The Edmond Sun

December 1, 2012

Edmond Paralympians share sport with local children

Bryan Trude
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Taking to heart the 2012 Paralympic motto “Inspire a Generation,” members of the silver medalist U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball team met and shared their sport with area children Thursday at the Edmond YMCA, 1220 S. Rankin St.

“The whole slogan for the whole Paralympics was to inspire a generation,” said Kaleo Kanahele, U.S. paralympian and Edmond native who attends Edmond Santa Fe High School as a junior. “I just think that is so important, for everyone to know about it and getting it out there.”

Kanahele talked with children ages 5 to 12 about how she was told she could not do things like play volleyball or perform ballet due to being born with a club foot, both things she can do. Teammate Heather Erickson, a Fayetteville, N.C., native who attends the University of Central Oklahoma, talked about how she started playing sitting volleyball at 13 with a false right leg.

“When I was a baby, I had a disease, so when I grew up, I didn’t know what it was like to have two legs like you guys have,” Erickson said to the gathered crowd.

After talking and taking questions from the children and letting them see their Paralympic silver medals, Erickson and Kanahele worked with the kids, teaching them the rules of sitting volleyball so they could experience it for themselves.

“It’s very important for kids who have a disability, because I was a kid who didn’t know about the Paralympics, when I grew up I didn’t know I had this outlet,” Erickson said. “It’s also important for those kids who think they can’t do anything and they are able-bodied, because so many people will tell you in this day and age that, oh, you can’t do this or you can’t do that, and they set limitations on that person. For me, it’s a big thing to have the kids who think they can’t be shown that they can, they just need a little inspiration.”

The U.S. took silver in women’s sitting volleyball following a 3-1 loss to China, the team’s second straight silver in the event. London was the first Paralympics for Kanahele, while Erickson was also a member of the 2008 Beijing Paralympics team.