#RoadtoRio

As the athletes train hard preparing for Rio, I thought I would share five bits of information about the Paralympic Games and Team Possible to help you get ready for Rio.

#1 The Paralympic Games were founded by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor born in Germany who sought refugee in England during World War II. “Poppa,” as he was called by his patients and staff, Guttmann was in charge of the spinal cord injury unit for the Stoke Mandeville Hospital where he revolutionized care for patients and introduced sports into the rehabilitation of injured soldiers. He shared his vision of the “Paralympic Games” with the world on July 28,1948. It was the same day King George VI opened the post-war 1948 Olympic Games in London. During this first adaptive sports competition, 14 athletes (12 men and 2 women) competed in archery.

Guttmann paralympics.org.uk

Dr. Ludwig “Poppa” Guttmann    Photo Credit: paralympics.org.uk

#2 This year 22 different sports will be played at the Rio Games. Many sports are also played by able-bodied athletes such as track, swimming, triathlon, archery, and table tennis. However, some are unique to the Paralympics like wheelchair rugby, boccia, and goalball. To learn more about the classification of athletes, rules of the sports and to view video highlights on each sport. Check out the Rio Paralympic Games website.

Goalball telegraph.co.uk

Paralympic Goalball  Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk      

#3 Over 4,000 athletes from more than 170 countries will compete in the Games which begin on September 7th and run until September 18th. For the first time in Paralympic history the Games will be televised by NBC and NBCSN for over 60 hours of coverage. To learn more about viewing hours in the US, check out Team USA’s website.

#4 Team Possible Update: Sydney Collier will be riding for Team USA. McKenna Dahl will be shooting in Rio, and Cortney Jordan hopes to be swimming her way to the podium.  Mackenzie Soldan and Abby Dunkin will be playing together on the women’s wheelchair basketball team.

#5 Team Possible Hugs: Para-equestrian rider, Sydney Collier, recently hugged First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the 100 Day countdown to Rio. Blade runner and aspiring Paralympian, Rio Woolf , got a huge hug from Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Rio and Prince Harry dailymail.co.uk

Rio gets a big hug from Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in Orlando. Photo Credit: Getty Images 

Now, get ready to cheer on all of the amazing athletes who are on the #RoadtoRio. 

Remember, keep believing in the possible!

Jen

Tristan Carroll Loves to Run & Encourage

Most of us remember our kindergarten teacher, but how many of us left such a positive impression on our teacher that s/he would nominate us years later to be featured on a sports blog? Tristan Carroll is that type of student athlete. He is in fifth grade now and still sees his kindergarten teacher, Judy Bates, regularly.

For Tristan’s interview Nolan, Caitlin and I met up with him and his family at a local park. Instead of getting right to work, the kids first played on the playground together and then after a while gathered on a picnic table to talk about sports and life.

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Tristan with his brothers Spencer, Porter and Carter. Photo Credit: Tracey Carroll

How old are you? I am eleven.

Do you have any pets? No. We had some pets in the past, but they all died.

What foods do you like? Pizza!

What do you like on your pizza? Just cheese.

What books do you like to read? I like to read My Weird School series. They are funny.

What movies do you like to watch? I like action movies and superhero movies.

What is your favorite movie? Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

This led to a big debate about the ending of the movie and the reviews. The kids told me that I can’t share the details of their conversation on the blog because it would spoil the movie for everybody.

What sports do you play? I do speed skating. I play soccer through the Special Olympics*. I do track again through the Special Olympics*.

*Tristan actually plays on unified teams through the Special Olympics because there are limiting offerings in his area for youth with physical exceptionalities. Since many of you may be wondering about the similarities and differences between the Olympics, Paralympics, and Special Olympics. I plan to discuss them in an upcoming blog post. I will also talk about unified sports and the access to adaptive sports programs for youth. Because we know, everyone has a right to play!

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? I was so proud when I stood up ice skating. I was always falling down, but I finally stood up all by myself. It took a couple of years to learn.

With admiration Nolan confesses he is still learning to stand up on ice skates. Tristan and his younger brother, Porter, then start giving ice skating tips to Nolan about pushing his feet out to the side and the importance of gliding. Tristan concludes with the best advice, “You need to be determined.”

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Tristan competing in track. Photo Credit: Tracey Carroll

What are your ultimate sports goals? To run a marathon.

Who will you run the marathon with? Porter will run it with me.

What about your mom? Oh my goodness, are you kidding me?

What makes a good teammate? They need to be encouraging. They need to be like, “Go! You can do it!”

What makes a good coach? That they help you improve. They tell you how to get better.

What advice do you have for other young athletes? To never give up. Don’t be afraid to fail. Trust me, I have failed tons of times.

Caitlin responds, “That is really good advice!”

How do you define ability? Something you are really good at.

Porter then asks to share his definition, Ability means you are physically and mentally able.”

A deep conversation starts with the kids discussing their views on ability, and if people need to be able to do things in the same way. They discuss Rio Woolf running with his prosthetic leg. They discuss Nick Springer playing wheelchair rugby and Tristan learning to ski. Then, Tracey captures all of our ideas in one statement: “If you are mentally able to do something, then you find a way to physically do it. If you think you can’t, you won’t.”

What superpowers do you have? I encourage people. Encouragement is energy.

Porter can’t help but add, “He laughs at everything. He will fall down and laugh.” Tracey agrees, “Yes, he has a good sense of humor. He has always had a good outlook on life.” Tristan smiles proudly and nods.

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Tristan writing about running in kindergarten. Photo Credit: Tracey Carroll

Believing in Team Possible

Hello Everyone!

I wanted to start the new year with thanking the many athletes who have shared their sports stories with me. All of you have provided me with new insights and greater motivation to write. I also wanted to thank all of the readers who support Team Possible by sharing posts or leaving comments. According to my “end of year report” from WordPress, your enthusiasm for stories of athletes who redefine ability has fueled this blog to be read by over 8,000 viewers in 77 countries. Although I will not use numbers to define my writing success, it certainly is validating to have nearly 500 followers. However, what encourages me the most are the comments from friends of Team Possible like:

I share all of your posts with my colleagues who are working on an inclusion task force.

I shared your post with my students.

I am designing a playground at work, and because of your posts I am truly integrating the accessibility features for all the children to play together.

I shared your post with a family member who has a child that is exceptional.

My son loves the post about Winter. Now, he has me read it to him at bedtime.

When I get the email about a new post, I save it until I have some time in my day to sit back and read it. They always make me think and reflect.

Think and reflect…I do lots of thinking and reflecting. It is simply part of the writing process. After rereading every interview from 2015, I selected the words from Team Possible members that have truly made me sit back, think and then get moving:

Nick Springer: Strength has nothing to do with what you can do when you are at your best, but what you can do when you are at your worst.

David Yates: They saw Winter and thought, “If this little dolphin can lose her tail and still live a dolphin life, then I can handle my problem.”

Jesse Billauer:  Ability is following your passion and being active in life.

Mackenzie Soldan: Grit is a good word. I would say it is taking a situation and fighting your way through it.

Zack Bastian: I’ve noticed that in my life when things get really bad I have an ability to turn the situation into something positive, and that is my super power. When things get bad, I get inspired to work harder and be better.

Greyson Cage: I wish I had invisibility, teleportability, flight and super speed.

Jim Abbott: We have to challenge ourselves each and every day. You need to ask yourself if you are pushing the limits of your own abilities.

Abby Dunkin: Ability is what you can do and not letting anything hold you back, no matter the circumstances.

Emilia Scovel: What makes a good coach is someone who knows how to make the team believe in each other and makes the team do their best.

Kanya Sesser: I think of myself and imagine myself reaching the goal.

Sydney Collier: Don’t get discouraged. It seems like a long journey and it really is. There are all these ups and downs along the way. Just keep your eye on the goal.

Cortney Jordan: Ability is doing your best and putting all your effort into something. It is demonstrating what you are capable of.

Malat Wei: Always have a positive attitude around your teammates. A positive attitude will get you wherever you want to go in life, and not just in sports.

Nick Newell: I am more of a Batman type guy. I take what I have and make it work.  Then, I go about it the smartest way possible. No superpowers. Just always working with what I have.

Rio Woolf: You can do anything.

Impressive, I know! Those wise and inspiring words have motivated me to keep going and to interview more athletes in the upcoming months. In 2016 you can look forward to meeting more athletes on the Road to Rio and beyond. Since I LOVE children’s book, you can plan for some book reviews, and I may even sneak in a documentary or movie review. Finally, I will weave in a personal essay or two throughout the months. It should be an exciting year. Thanks for joining me.

Keep Believing in the Possible!

Jen

The Tale of Winter & Hope: An Interview with David Yates

Winter and Hope Photo Credit: Dolphin Tale 2

Winter and Hope Photo Credit: Dolphin Tale 2

Have you heard of Winter? She is the amazing dolphin who got caught in a fishing net and lost her tail, but not her spirit. She now swims with the help of a prosthetic tail at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Her best friend is Hope. Like Winter, Hope was found stranded at two months old on the eastern coast of Florida and brought to Clearwater Marine Aquarium to get better. We love their inspiring stories and their movies, Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. We were super excited when we had the chance to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see them and meet with the CEO, David Yates. Here is our awesome interview:

Nolan, Caitlin and David Yates in his original CMA office and set for both movies. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Nolan, Caitlin and David Yates in his original CMA office and set for both movies. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

David Yates: What brought you here today?

Nolan: Our mom has a blog, and she interviews Paralympians. We do the interviews for kids that will be future Paralympians. We think Winter is like a Paralympian because she swims fast with her prosthetic tail.

David: You’re right. I used to be the CEO of the Iron Man organization and worked with a lot of challenged athletes. I also helped to start the Challenged Athlete Foundation, and now I work with a challenged dolphin. So how did you get involved with this as a family?

Nick Springer, two-time Paralympian in wheelchair rugby, and Caitlin's hero. Photo Credit: XXX

Nick Springer, two-time Paralympian in wheelchair rugby, and Caitlin’s hero. Photo Credit: Loren Worthington

Caitlin: Our cousin, Nick Springer, is a Paralympian. He plays wheelchair rugby. At 14 he got sick and he became a quad-amputee. Now, he can even can use chop sticks.

Nolan: Yeah. And, he won a gold in Beijing.

David: That is an inspiring story. It is kind of like a story we have about a little dolphin around here. So how do you want to start?

Caitlin sits up tall with her prepared questions and asks the first question.

Caitlin: How long have you been working with Winter and have you worked with Hope?

David: I have been here for almost 10 years, and Winter arrived almost when I did-just within a couple of weeks. We raised our kids coming to the aquarium here. Now, they are grown. But back in the 90’s, we came here quite a lot and got to know the aquarium really well. Then, about 10-12 years ago the aquarium got in a bit of trouble, and they were running out of money. So I was asked to help it get better again. Because I knew the aquarium so well, I thought it would be neat to get involved. I have been working with Winter now for about ten years. And for Hope, I have amazing story about her coming here. Do you want to hear a crazy story?

Caitlin and Nolan: Yes!

David: You watched Dolphin Tale, right? Well, on Saturday December 11, 2010, we had finally wrapped up filming the movie after four years. It was finally done on that day. At 4 o’clock, I went home to change clothes because we were having a going away party for all of the cast and crew. It was going to be at the restaurant down the street. At 5 o’clock, we finally wrap up everything with the movie and we’re cheering.

Winter has Hope. Photo Credit: Dolphin Tale 2

Winter has Hope. Photo Credit: Dolphin Tale 2

Then, 10 minutes later I get a phone call from my dolphin rescue team that there is a baby dolphin on the eastern side of Florida stranded. If it survives, they want to bring it to Clearwater Marine Aquarium for rehabilitation. So within a couple of hours of finishing the filming of Dolphin Tale, Hope arrives during our party. It was a very providential act. So all of the cast that played us in the movie actually got to watch us bring Hope in and see what we do in real life. Hope arrived here 5 years and 1 day after Winter arrived. So the short answer to your question is that I have been with Winter for 10 years and Hope for 5 years now.

Caitlin: Have you ever worked with them together?

David: Yes, here is what happens with Winter and Hope. They are like sisters. They spend lots of time together, but sometimes they split up and have their own rooms. You know how it is sometimes you want to be together, and sometimes you want to be by yourself. When we work with them, you will see sometimes they will be together and sometimes they will be separated depending on the time of the day. They are good friends and they love each other. Hope is like the little sister who is always asking “Can we play?” Winter is 10, and like “Well, maybe later.”

Caitlin: Nolan is 10, and he is like that.

Nolan: Does Winter have different types of tails?

David: She has one tail at a time, but we have made many tails over the years. Here is her current tail, and we make a new tail about every four to five months. Can you guess why we make a tail every four to five months?

Caitlin: Because she gets bigger.

David: Right. Can you guess the other reason?

Nolan: Because they wear out.

Diagram of Winter's prosthetic gel and tail made by Hangar Clinics. Photo Credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Diagram of Winter’s prosthetic gel and tail made by Hanger Clinics. Photo Credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

David: Almost. We are always trying to make it better. See her flukes, these are made in Japan by a separate group. It has to have the right buoyancy and the right kind of rubber. The rest is made by Hanger Clinics who make artificial arms and legs for people. Then, they put it all together. Now, here is Winter’s Gel. I have a neat story about Winter’s Gel. Dolphins have very sensitive skin, and anytime you wear an artificial limb you need a liner because it can cause chaffing.

Caitlin: Yeah, we know because our friend, Rio.

Nolan, Rio and Caitlin showing off Rio's legs. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Nolan, Rio and Caitlin showing off Rio’s legs. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

David: Wait, you know Rio! He came and sat right here, too. Well since you know Rio and about liners, we had to create one for Winter. At first, we would wrap her tail to get her gradually used to it. If we just took the tail and put it on her and said, “Okay, Winter you have to wear this tail,” that would scare her. You have to do that gradually, one step at a time. We eventually developed Winter’s Gel. Now, there are thousands of people including kids using Winter’s Gel to solve their pain when wearing prosthetics.

Caitlin: Is it hard to get her tail on and off?

David: No, it’s very easy. We had to make sure it was a positive experience for her from the beginning. We have developed a very trusting relationship with Winter, and she trusts us now to take it on and off. It just takes two to three minutes to get on or off.

David shows Nolan and Caitlin all of the steps for getting the prosthetic tail on Winter. He explains that there are no pins or anything that would cause harm to her holding the tail on her body, just one velcro strap and suction. 

Kevin Carroll from Hanger Clinic fitting Winter's tail. Photo Credit: nwf.org

Kevin Carroll from Hanger Clinic fitting Winter’s tail. Photo Credit: nwf.org

David: The tail needs to be the right flexibility and the right buoyancy. If it is too heavy, she sinks. If it is too light, she can’t swim with it. It also needs to be the right flexibility to help her swim naturally. The whole idea of the tail is really to give her physical therapy for her back. She can’t wear it all day because it would hurt. So she wears it on and off all day giving her a chance to swim in a more natural way and protect her back from getting any worse.

Nolan & Caitlin examining Winter's newest tail. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Nolan & Caitlin examining Winter’s newest tail. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Caitlin: How does it feel? How much does it weigh?

David: Well, why don’t you hold it and feel it. It is about 12 to 15 pounds. It is actually lighter than if her actual tail was there.

Nolan: Yeah, it would have bones.

David: That’s right. It would be heavier because of the bones and muscle mass.

Nolan: What kind of training does Winter do and how long?

David: Well, we don’t call it “training” as much. We call it “enrichment and husbandry.” Those are big words, so I’ll start by explaining “enrichment.” The only dolphins we have here are ones who have been rescued and can’t be released back into the wild. Dolphins are very intelligent animals, and if they aren’t taken care of the right way, they can get sick and eventually die.

Trainer swimming with Winter Photo Credit: DailyHerald.com

Trainer swimming with Winter Photo Credit: DailyHerald.com

So here you will see us doing enrichment like “Face-toFace” time with dolphins. You will see toys in the water. It may seem cute, but they are out there for a reason. We give them lots of variety in activities throughout the day because it’s not good if they get bored or “satiated.” Our job is to always make sure we are doing new things with them throughout the day. You may see them jumping, but we don’t do activities for entertainment. They are to keep them mentally healthy.

Nolan: What techniques do you use?

Abby Stone working with Winter. Photo Credit: TampayBay.com

Abby Stone working with Winter. Photo Credit: TampayBay.com

David: We use “positive reinforcement.” If we want the dolphins to do something that would be good for them, we sometimes use a target stick to teach them. Once the dolphins have done the new action right, we give them positive reinforcement with food. Sometimes, we also use a bridge. It is a whistle that you sometimes can’t hear, but the dolphins can. We also use the whistle to tell them they did the right thing. It is a process and it takes time. It could take a number of months. A trainer may work with a dolphin for an hour or so, and then give her some rest or play time. The whole day is very scheduled. It may look informal from the outside, but it is very well planned- 24 hours a day.

Nolan: How do they sleep?

David: The best way to describe it is to think about your dad falling asleep in front of the T.V. Dolphins are mammals so they need to breathe even when they are sleeping. They float at the top of the water and shut off half of their brain. They are not unconscious, but are resting.

Nolan: What kind of diet is Winter on?

Nolan and Caitlin examining the sting rays. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Nolan and Caitlin examining the sting rays. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

David: They are on a fish diet. There are three types of fish that they eat. Everything they eat is very  carefully managed by our veterinary team. They manage how much they eat, what they eat, when they eat, and how many calories. Typically, the dolphins eat between 13-18 pounds of fish a day depending on their size. Winter eats about 13-14 and Nicholas, our bigger dolphin, eats about 18 pounds of fish a day. Do you know how the dolphins get their water to stay hydrated?

Caitlin: From the fish they eat.

David: That’s right. Even though they live in water, they don’t drink it. Very good.

Nolan: When did you start letting people with exceptionalities visit Winter?

David: Winter came here in December 2005. When you have an animal who is being cared for and is rehabilitating, you don’t show the animal until it is well enough. So it wasn’t until June 2006, when Winter first appeared to the public.

Young boy meets Winter. Photo Credit: TampaBay.com

Young boy meets Winter. Photo Credit: TampaBay.com

But for special visits, that happened after I shared Winter’s story with media and it went all around the world. This was long before the movie, Dolphin Tale. People love a good news story, and this was special because it was about a dolphin that refused to give up. Then, we got all these letters from kids, wounded soldiers, and others who connected with Winter’s story about overcoming a challenge. They saw Winter and thought, “If this little dolphin can lose her tail and still live a dolphin life, then I can handle my problem.” We started getting emails and phone calls asking to visit Winter. Once the Dolphin Tale movie came out, in the first weekend we got over 10,000 emails. Now, we’ve gotten over 100,000 emails. And most of those emails are from moms and dads explaining how Winter has inspired their child who might be going through chemotherapy, has a cleft palate, has a limb difference, has autism, or some other special need that has connected them to Winter’s story. I bet if we walked out the door of this office right now, we could find many families here for that reason. Once we realized how much Winter was inspiring people, in 2007 we started bringing in kids with special needs and wounded soldiers to meet her.

Nolan and Caitlin holding Winter's newest tail. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Nolan and Caitlin holding Winter’s newest tail. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Thank you Clearwater Marine Aquarium and David Yates for your time. Thank you Winter and Hope for inspiring all of us to believe in the possible. Go Team Possible!

Post Rio Interview with Nolan and Caitlin

Nolan, Rio and Caitlin showing off Rio's legs. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Nolan, Rio and Caitlin showing off Rio’s legs. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

What was your favorite part of your visit with Rio?

Nolan: Wait, you can’t interview us. We’re not Paralympians.

I know. But I was just wondering, what was your favorite part about your visit with Rio?

Caitlin and Jen teaching Rio to boogie board in the waves of Ocean Park, Maine. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Caitlin and Jen teaching Rio to boogie board in the waves of Ocean Park, Maine. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Caitlin: My favorite part was going to the beach. I liked showing Rio how to boogie board.

Nolan: I had so many favorite parts. It is really hard to decide. I think…the whole day. Yeah, the whole day.

What surprised you about the visit?

Caitlin: I was surprised at how good Rio was at boogie boarding. Usually, kids don’t get it right away like he did.

Nolan: I was surprised when Rio climbed up the cliffs at the river with his water leg on. I mean that is really hard because it doesn’t bend at the knee. There is no hinge. But then, we would slide down the cliffs on our boogie boards into the water. It was a fun time.

What did you learn from your day together?

Caitlin, Rio and Nolan showing off the personalize copy of Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Thompson. One person can change the world.

Caitlin, Rio and Nolan showing off the personalize copy of Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Thompson. One person can change the world.

Caitlin: I learned that people with disabilities can do everything that kids without disabilities can do.

Nolan: If you have something that is like a disability, you can still do lots of stuff. Even though, it might be a little hard.

What would you like to do when you get to meet up with Rio again?

Caitlin: Probably, rock climbing.

Nolan:  I don’t know what I would do. There are so many great things to do with Rio, and I hope we see him again soon.

Caitlin: Paragliding would be really fun, too.

Do you have any other comments?

Caitlin: The day with Rio was really fun. I wished he lived in the US.

Nolan: I know Rio’s mom is going to read this interview. So… I can’t wait to see him again!

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The tweet that started a friendship across the Atlantic. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

The day with Rio and his parents, Juliette and Trevor, was truly remarkable. It was like experiencing the mission of Team Possible firsthand. It is incredible to think that it all started from a simple tweet of Rio holding a Lego figurine.

One special moment for me was when Juliette told me Rio called me “Coach,” and insisted that I help him work on his new boogie boarding skills. Although it was tough to say good-bye to our new boogie boarding buddy, I loved the big squeeze-you-tight hugs we all received from Rio at the end. Keep believing in the possible! #RunRioRun #BoogieRioBoogie

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Rio Woolf (Part 3)- The Finish Line

9:18 a.m. US/ 2:18 p.m. UK

Caitlin starts…

What sports do you play? Mostly like, every sport. I play eight sports: football (soccer), tennis, basketball, wheelchair basketball, table tennis. Let’s see…Swim. Run. Rio SoccerThat’s seven. Football…Yeah, I play eight sports and I do all of them about 8 to 9 times week.

What are your favorite foods? Chocolate. I love fruits and vegetables. I eat tons of them. I eat up all the mango (Juliette explains that Rio is on a health kick).

Do you have any pets? In about 1 hour and 35 minutes, we will have a dog. (Juliette explains that they will be taking care of Rio’s grandparents’ dog for the night. The puppy makes a brief appearance later in the interview. It’s a cute little poodle. Caitlin tries to talk to it via FaceTime using her superpowers. See below.)

What books do you like to read? I’ve got tons of books. I like Gruffalo (Rio proceeds to show us at least five titles in the Gruffalo series), Curious George (Caitlin is thrilled with this selection) and Horrid Henry. (Caitlin shares one of her favorite books, Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson. It is the true story of how a boy born with a limb difference changes the world.)Gruffalo

What movies do you like to watch? Well, I was about 5 minutes into the Cars 2 movie before you called. I like the Rio movies. I like all the Cars movies, Monsters Inc., Monster University and Big Hero 6. (“Oh, I love Big Hero 6!” exclaim Nolan and Caitlin simultaneously.) Then, Rio parades all of the Monster University characters from his bed past the screen. Nolan and Caitlin try to remember some of the characters’ names. This leads to Caitlin running to her room and returning with a bag of TY Beanie Boos to share. When both parades are over Nolan announces that it is time for the next question, and they get back to the interview.)

9:50 a.m. US/ 2:50 p.m. UK

Nolan’s turn…

What are your superpowers? I don’t really know what to say for that question. What are yours? (Caitlin responds, “Oh, I can talk to animals. And I’m good in the ocean. I have nature superpowers.” Nolan and Rio say they need to think about it more. Juliette says she thinks Rio’s superpower is that he always gets up and keeps going. Rio agrees and shows us a recent injury on his finger to prove her point. Nolan says he has the same superpower and shows off his cut and bruised knee from a recent fall on his bike. Once all injuries have been shared, we get back to the interview.)

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? I’m not sure. IMG_0756(Rio is being modest. He shows us lots of medals that he has earned and a recent certificate from an adaptive sports camp program. Juliette helps out with the question and talks about how since 2013 Rio proudly participates in an annual run around London’s Olympic stadium. Conversation about this event leads Rio to move towards the cabinet above his bed. There he shows us the pictures displayed. They include him standing with his Paralympic heroes like Jonnie Peacock, Alan Fonteles and Richard Whitehead, except one where he is with Prince Harry. Yes, THE Prince Harry. Rio has many accomplishments to be proud of and he is only 7 years old.)

Back to Caitlin…

What makes a good teammate? Someone who tries hard. I’m very fit. (Rio is known for his hard work and shows us his muscles to prove it.)

What makes a good coach? Someone who makes it fun. (Here’s some video of his coach, Hayley, making it fun Track & Samba.)Rio Run

10:12 a.m. US/ 3:12 p.m. UK

Puppy Showing & Impromptu Snack Break

Nolan’s turn again…

How would you define ability? You can do anything. You are still the same. You can play sports. Just if you have a straight leg on, you can’t bend it. (Juliette adds challenged athletes will get to the same place they may just take a more scenic route by doing it differently.)

What is your ultimate sports goal? I want to be in the Paralympics or a footballer (a professional soccer player).

10:24 a.m. US/ 3:24 p.m. UK

Quick Virtual Tour of Houses & Back Yard or Garden

10:38 a.m. US/ 3:38 p.m. UK

Interview resumes with Nolan asking final question.

What advice do you have for other young athletes? To keep trying.

10:50 a.m. US/ 3:50 p.m. UK

“Goodbye” everyone shouts at the screen and waves to each other.

Rio w: Harry

What’s Next for These Super Kids?

Our one hour interview lasted nearly two hours and was filled with stories, laughs and surprises. As life sometimes creates unexpected opportunities, Rio, Nolan and Caitlin will have a chance to play together this summer in Maine when he comes to the US to attend Camp No Limits. They can’t wait to explore the rocky coast and see Rio try out his new water leg. Although Rio is on a health kick, eating some ice cream and trying a famous Maine Wicked Whoopie Pies are part of the plans. Eating lobster will not be a part of the menu. Despite encouragement from Nolan and Caitlin, Rio remains a bit reluctant to eat lobster because as he states “it could pinch me in my stomach.”

Thank you Rio & Juliette for your time. We can’t wait to see you in July. Until then, keep believing in the possible!

Nolan, Caitlin & Jen

P.S. Rio nominates track and field stars, Jonnie Peacock, Alan Fonteles, and Richard Whitehead to join Team Possible.

If you want to learn more about Rio Woolf you can visit his FaceBook page, Twitter or website Run Rio Run.

Rio Woolf (Part 2)- The False Start & New Leg

8:00 a.m. US/ 1:00 p.m. UK

Now dressed, Nolan sits down to eat his breakfast. He takes a bite of his blueberry muffin. “Mom, what do you think Rio is doing right now? I bet he is playing a lot of sports…It’s not fair. He’s had like 3 hours to play, and I just got up.”

8:30 a.m. US/ 1:30 p.m. UK

IMG_0774Nolan and Caitlin review their interview questions. They divide them equally. They each get to ask six questions.Nolan highlights his questions in yellow. Caitlin highlights her questions in green. To practice they FaceTime their dad from the porch to the living room and ask him the interview questions. Everything goes smoothly.

9:00 a.m. US/ 2:00 p.m. UK

I dial the Woolf family in London.

9:02 a.m. US/ 2:02 p.m. UK

“I knew we would have technical difficulty,” Nolan states as I bumble over how to make an international call via FaceTime. I struggle to make it all work.

“Let me try it again,” I say as I hold my breathe and push the video icon. We wait as we imagine the familiar triple beep sound making it’s way across the Atlantic, and then Juliette, Rio’s mom, appears on the screen.

9:05 a.m. US/ 2:05 p.m. UK

“Hello!” everyone shouts and waves at once, except Rio. He’s missing. 

“I’m sorry,” Juliette says. “Rio is in the bathroom. Bad timing.” 

In a flash, Rio appears “I have three legs,” he explains as he attempts to hold his three prosthetic legs up to the screen (his “bendy leg” or knee-jointed day leg, his running blade for sports, and his water leg for swimming in the pool and ocean).IMG_1596
He immediately starts talking about his brand new water leg. He carefully turns it around in front of the screen. It is covered in colorful decals. Rio explains each picture. First, he shows us the logo from the Rio 2 movie. Next, he turns his leg to display his own personal logo Run Rio Run, the Brazilian flag, the 2016 Paralympic Games and two pictures of his favorite dolphin, Winter from Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Nolan and Caitlin look in awe, even a bit envious. Rio’s water leg marks a major milestone for him because it is for his upcoming trip to the United States where he will attend Camp No Limits in Maine and then travel to Florida to meet the famous dolphin, Winter, who uses a prosthetic tail.

“Rio wants to show you how he puts his leg on,” Juliette adds while Rio moves around on his bed in the background.

“Hello!” Rio smiles as he waves his residual limb at the screen. Nolan, Caitlin and Rio chuckle. He then takes them through all the steps to putting on his water leg. For a moment the dads poke their heads on to the screens to say “hello.” Rio finishes putting on his leg, and then everyone is ready to start the “formal” interview.

Jr. Team Possible: Rio Woolf (Part 1)- The Anticipation

Sunday, June 14

7:00 a.m. US/ 12 p.m. UK

Caitlin arrives in the kitchen unusually early dressed and ready for the day. She is wearing her new pink t-shirt that reads, “Girls can change the world.” IMG_0770

“Good morning,Cait…” I start to say when she interrupts me. She has more important things on her mind this morning.

“Mom,” she says as she looks down at her t-shirt. “I think they should make shirts that say, ‘Future Paralympians can change the world’.”

“I agree, Caitlin. We should make shirts that say…” she interrupts me again.

“Mom, they should make shirts that say, ‘Paralympians can change the world’, too.”

7:30 a.m. US/ 12:30 p.m. UK

Nolan bounds into the kitchen still in his pajamas. “I can’t believe it! Today, I get to interview a future Paralympian.”

Introduction to Jr. Team Possible

Dear Readers,

When I was researching the 2012 London Paralympic Games, I came across this photo of a young boy named Rio holding up aIMG_0738 mini Lego figure that he had built. The top of the figurine featured a brawny man with the typical rectangular torso, but it was his lower limbs that made me smile. Rio had created running blades for his Lego man. He had built one of his heroes, British Paralympic track and field star, Richard Whitehead. In the photo Rio’s eyes glistened with pride His little Lego “mini-me” figure and joyous smile reminded me that if you don’t see yourself in the world you can build it (especially with Legos).

I reflected on the photo and thought I should follow Rio’s lead and start building what I wanted to see in the world. Like Rio, I want to see a more inclusive world that celebrates ALL abilities. However, I am not as imaginative as Rio with Legos. Therefore, I knew I would have to build my vision with words. Jr. TeamPossible: Young Athletes Who Redefine Ability is my attempt to build a world where ALL young athletes are celebrated for how they redefine play, sport and ability and through their words we will shift perspectives and create change in our world.

Since I know adults can sometimes get in the way, my children (Nolan and Caitlin) will be conducting the interviews for the Jr. Team Possible. The interviews will be kids talking to kids about sports, life, and other important stuff. I encourage you to get involved by sharing the stories of our featured athletes. Let’s start building a more inclusive world together!

Believe in the Possible,

Jen

P.S. Check out a preview of things to come with theses super kids!