Paralympian Chris Waddell to teach students about resilience – - Belfast – Waldo – The Republican Journal
Searsport — On Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 9 a.m., champion Paralympic athlete Chris Waddell will be giving a presentation of his Nametags educational program for Searsport school students.
In this interactive program, designed in conjunction with Donna Volpitta, Ed.D, Chris uses video clips, activities and stories in order to challenge students to think about the assumptions we make about the labels that we place on ourselves and others. It is a powerful presentation that is endorsed by bullying expert Joel Haber.
On later that day, at 7 p.m. in the Searsport District High School cafetorium, Waddell — who was featured this July on ABC’s 20/20 “Super Humans” segment for his 2009 summit of Mount Kilimanjaro — will be presenting his award winning documentary of the climb “One Revolution.”
This is the only screening of the film in Maine, and is a must-see. This screening of the film is proudly sponsored by Hamilton Marine Inc., so there will be no admission charge for the event, however, donations are welcome and all proceeds go to the One Revolution Non-profit foundation. For more information contact Jessica (parent volunteer) at 323-4512 or the school at 548-2313.
I’ve thought a lot about changing modes of transportation especially as we embark on designing a developing countries handcycle, but the thought is a lot different when it’s personal. Unlike the people we’re trying to help, I don’t have to crawl on the floor or in the dirt. In fact, I rarely encounter anything that I can’t do. Sure climbing the grassy ski hill in my everyday chair for a Wednesday concert at Deer Valley is a challenge. There’s the inevitable flight of stairs and there was the glass bottle of olive oil on the top shelf at the supermarket the other day. I was sure had everything under control as I flipped it up from the bottom and caught it on the way down, but right there in the middle was a moment of worry.
It occurred to me a couple of days ago that the difference between being on the ground and getting around in a handcycle isn’t so much about assisted movement but a different plane of movement—a sense of freedom. As epiphanies often go, it occurred to me in a totally personal way. A good friend asked me to join him and his boys at the pool of the gym—not so much at the pool as the structure behind it. He’d been talking about brachiating on the metal rings since he arrived this summer—and the monkey bars that climbed in a 45-degree angle—and the climbing rope and the fireman’s pole.
The monkey bars were the monkey bars—a lot like doing pull-ups. Climbing the rope tendered a kind of freedom as I quickly left my chair far below. But the rings were transformational. I watched Bob’s kids try the rings, other kids and Bob himself. Their attempts all ended the same, with a bailout into the sand. When my friend Steve and his kids joined us, there was a chance that I could try because the rings were probably ten feet off the ground. With the two of them they could lift me.
I grabbed with both hands and they swung me toward the other ring, when I grabbed it I started pulling hard with my right hand in the opposite direction to maximize my swing toward the next ring, which I grabbed and repeated the process, moving quickly across space. I went four or five before I started to think that there was no eject button for me. Landing in the sand wouldn’t end well for me, so I cut the joy short for the safety of my chair. But in that moment I moved, really moved, moved on an entirely different plane, one that I comprehended kinesthetically, but couldn’t understand in the context of my experience. That was the intoxicating part—an entirely new context.
For a long time I’ve thought that I’d love to have a spiral staircase with handholds underneath so that I could climb that very same staircase with my hands. I haven’t worked out the landing part, which would be important. Maybe I need to check out some Escher drawings. The rings and the spiral staircase show some creativity versus a ramp. A ramp is just an afterthought—a crude accommodation with no sense of aesthetic. A ramp is like putting jeans on Michelangelo’s David. There’s nothing beautiful about a ramp, just something tacked on when necessity trumps aesthetic.
As I went out for my workout today I thought about changing that plane of perspective and movement. I liked moving in a different way and can’t wait to do it again. I’m sure I’ll go the whole length of the rings the next time. I also thought, could I design a house that would allow me to move freely—not a house designed for walking people with after market afterthoughts, but one that used the beautiful space and movement. I think I’d call it anti-gravity, which might not make any sense, but it does in my mind. That’s what I hope for the people we’re trying to help—a vehicle that makes sense in time, space and movement, and escapes that pull of gravity.1 comment
Amanda Stoddard, who directed “One Revolution,” told “20/20″ the porters were amazed by Waddell.
“They were astounded,” Stoddard said. “There was a word on the mountain that the porters called Chris. I translated it as nguvu-man: superman.”
But for Waddell, making it to the top meant more than just defining himself as superhuman. It meant changing the perceptions of disabled people, a message he shares through his One Revolution Foundation and Nametags programs.
ABC’s 20/20 to Air “Superhumans” – How paraplegic Chris Waddell summitted Mount Kilimanjaro and changes the lives of America’s children.
This is the headline for our latest press release to announce that Chris will be featured this Friday night on ABC’s 20/20’s “Superhumans” segment (UPDATED TIME! AT 9 pm EDT)! In the show, Chris talks about his climb and his upcoming ten-week national tour of of his education program, Nametags, and award-winning documentary, One Revolution.
This spring One Revolution was featured in a number of film festivals and we were honored to win several awards. The film, directed by Amanda Stoddard, beautifully captures Chris’s very human journey to dare greatly and ultimately to live fully.
So far, Chris has spoken to more than 45,000 students through Nametags, and he is planning to reach thousands more in the upcoming tour. Nametags is not just about disability, it is about resilience and community. Chris encourages kids to do great things.
Brandon Gell, one of the students that Chris reached with his Nametags educational program, climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in support of One Revolution. Brandon said, “Chris made me look at my life and my perceived challenges. He inspired me to be better every day.” Along with his father and sister, Brandon climbed the mountain with the goal or raising one dollar for every foot of the 19,340-foot mountain. He exceeded his goal, raising over $20,000 to help One Revolution reach others.
The next step for One Revolution is to establish an outreach program, Mobility Revolution, to help people to be able to live more fully. The first project will be to adapt the hand cycle Chris used on Kilimanjaro to create a vehicle that could be affordably used throughout the world.
Our final news is that we just made some changes on the website, so please come take a look at all that we have been doing: www.one-revolution.org.
One Revolution is actively seeking sponsorship for its tours and programming and booking events for the fall.
For further information, visit the web site at www.one-revolution.org.
Thank you for your support!1 comment
Sunday May 22nd I received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from my alma mater Middlebury College. I also performed the commencement address. During the year I probably do more than 100 presentations to large groups. I get nervous every time. I don’t think that will ever change. After 30 years of ski racing I still get nervous getting into the Nastar starting gate. Nervous is good. It means that I care, but this was a different kind of nervousness. I was miserable leading up to the commencement address, feeling a responsibility to impart meaningful words to these amazingly talented students at a school that is so close to my heart.
I knew months in advance that I would give the address, but I couldn’t put anything on paper until the week of graduation. On Thursday, before the Sunday ceremony, I flew to JFK, rented a car, and drove to my parents’ house in New Hampshire. During the five-hour drive I worked through my speech a few times out loud, from memory. I like to hear how it sounds. Doing it from memory forces me to make transitions that aren’t as obvious when I write it on paper. The next morning I wrote the changes into the script, and submitted it to the college for them to disseminate to various news outlets. Each night and morning I ran through my speech a few times before and after sleep.
I don’t use notes. I had no security blanket. For the first time in a long time I worried that I wouldn’t remember my speech—that I would totally go up. The fear was so bad that a week later I woke thinking that I had to give the speech again, and this time it really counted. Dreams can be a little twisted. I couldn’t remember the speech at all, but then I woke up rolled over and went back to sleep. Here is a link to the speech if you would like to watch it.
Last fall we did a six-week, five state, 32 school, and 15,000 student tour of Nametags program on the East Coast. Touring Nametags attracted me from the beginning for the stories of the people I’d meet and the new places that I’d see. Originally, I envisioned a ten-month driving tour through our country. The lure of the odyssey, as in the Odyssey, or Karouac’s On the Road, framed the miles, spaces, people and places as the stories. Waiting for my plane in Charles de Gaulle as a high schooler I’d read Peter Jenkin’s Walk Across America. Our country was out there to be seen. I wanted to journey as an explorer—to learn bits from the people I met. In my mind it seemed so different than being a tourist—made more real by the struggle of getting from place to place and interaction with the people in the schools instead of just being a window shopper.
I’m thinking about the tour as we make plans to put both our Nametags program and our film on the road this coming fall. (Let us know if you’d like us to visit your community.) But, I’m also thinking about it because over the last three weeks, I’ve effectively been on tour. Since the beginning of April I’ve been in Vail, CO; Park City, Hampton/Exeter, NH; Dallas, Memphis, Vegas, Park City, Winnetka/Geneva, IL; Park City, San Diego, Park City, and then Newport Beach, CA tomorrow. It’s been a wonderful time to see friends and family, and to finally show our film in festivals, but it’s also been about the little things that I’ve learned along the way and the people and moments that have touched me.
At Phillips Exeter I attended a mysticism class prior to my Nametags presentation. We opened the class listening to a chant and meditating. As I touched my index fingers to my thumbs, I thought we never would have done this when I was in high school. After the meditation the student to my right said, “We should introduce ourselves and say what we like to do.” Every student in the class, from one of the most prestigious and competitive prep schools in the country, stated that what they liked to do was some form of art. I like to “write,” “paint,” “dance,” “act.” Inhibition didn’t even creep into their voices or eyes. I thought of Gordon McKenzie and a friend of mine. McKenzie wrote Orbiting the Giant Hairball, about slipping the bonds of corporate normalcy. He often spoke to students marveling at how the artists in the class slipped from unabashed everyone in first grade to 10 out of 30 self-conscious souls by the third grade, yet I’d just experienced a group of seniors who were all artists of one sort or another. Maybe by the time they start professions they’ll remember their art and something that a friend said when asked what he did. “I hike and surf,” which begged the follow-up question, “For work?” “No, that’s what I do for fun.”
Even though I’ve done fifteen presentations in the last three weeks, I’m completely ill at ease asking a question in front of a group. My heart races. My palms dampen. I loop over and over in my head what I want to say. Feeling my own pain, I marveled at Eyob. Not only did he ask one question, but he asked two questions in front of a room full of adults. I empathized with him in one way. This presentation was in a church. Eyob, in his wheelchair, was an add-on to the end of the pew. In that position I feel like a potential obstacle. He couldn’t have cared less. I think he’s a third grader, just recently adopted from Ethiopia, and still taking English as a second language, yet all I could think when I met Eyob and then talked with him at his school the next day was, “at ease.”
Our film showed for the first time at the Memphis International Film and Music Festival. It was a tremendous first showing in a real theatre, on a big screen. We won “Best Feature Documentary” (and would win again at the Geneva Film Festival), but the thing that stayed with me was a comment that my father made after the film’s conclusion. Speaking to the film’s director, Amanda Stoddard, he said, “It’s a wonderful film. I cried from the beginning to the end.” Obviously, I’ve known my father my whole life. During that time I’ve known him as a measure of control and composure. I never would have expected him to say that he cried through the whole thing.
I’d started this blog with the idea of recounting the interesting things that I’ve seen on my journey. I didn’t think that I’d have a theme, but I seem to—the things that we see in others that we want for ourselves. One of my primary goals in this project has been to achieve the kind of honesty that the Exeter students, Eyob, and my father displayed. Dropping the mask, being at ease, that’s what I wanted.
Recently I read an article that Boston Globe columnist, Charlie Pierce wrote about the recovery of Ryan Westmorland, the Red Sox top prospect who had delicate and possibly debilitating or fatal surgery for a cavernous malformation in his brain in the spring of 2010. Charlie said it much better than I can and I apologize but I’m going to quote a whole paragraph,
“The individual people who live their lives as athletes live them out side by side with constructed identities, public doppelgangers created by their talents and fashioned in every aspect by the worth that society places on those talents. There are athletes whose basic humanity becomes utterly subsumed by the identities that are built for them, a process in which they usually are more or less complicit. And the great majority of them don’t know that this has happened at all until something – simple aging, a catastrophic injury, legal problems – explodes the constructed identity and leaves them with nothing but their essential human identity, which they may not even recognize anymore. Those who have managed to hang onto their basic humanity, their fundamental sense of their actual identities, are the ones who survive. The others are lost, and often to themselves, most tragically of all.”
I guess that’s why we go on journeys, because we learn about ourselves. After my accident, I created the mask that I could do whatever I wanted. That mask became more firmly affixed as I competed for fifteen years and won medals and World Championships. It was exactly the opposite of being disabled and I liked that, yet I worried about Pierce’s doppelganger, and worried that I could be lost to myself. Maybe I started my journey to learn other people’s stories, and relish the gifts of our country, but I’m also learning about myself. Thanks Exeter students, Eyob, and dad for the lessons.
Now that the film is done there’s the worry that people won’t like it. With a friend, I drew the analogy, “It’s like having a kid and sending him or her off to college. You think your kid is a good kid, but you’re not sure if you think your kid is a good kid because he or she is your kid or if your kid is really a good kid.” We made the film that we wanted to make. That in and of itself is an achievement, but I really want people to like it. That desire breeds a little anxiety, so much so that I drew an analogy to having a kid. I’m sure some of you are saying what does he know about having a kid? Good point. I think having a kid is a bit like making a movie.
So far people like the film. We’ve won “Best Feature Doc,” at our first two festivals: Memphis and Geneva. It’s quite a start, though I hope the kid doesn’t flunk out in the second semester. In Memphis we showed in a theatre with a “U” shape from front to back. The seats in the middle were lower than those nearer and farther away from the screen. It was surprisingly comfortable. My parents came down for our big screen premier. Our Executive Producer, Pablo Nyarady, hustled an amazing collection of friends. For me, and I’d imagine for Amanda, watching the film that we’d slaved over for years, was a bit like that scene from Tom Sawyer, where he sneaks into the church attic to watch his own funeral. Everyone else was a spectator. We were subjects, and we felt conspicuously in their midst, hoping they’d like it.
As best I can tell there’s an arc of making a film, which might be similar to having a child because you need to approach both with unquestioning optimism and naïveté, again I present the caveat of never actually having a child. We started thinking that this will be the greatest movie ever. It will change the way that world sees films. Then there were the moments of total desperation. Nothing made sense. We were hemorrhaging money. We were totally overwhelmed. It seems like we wouldn’t even get started let alone create the greatest movie ever. I can’t tell you how many times I wished that someone just had an answer for how to continue—how to make sense. Everything was going at a hundred miles an hour and I felt stuck in the mud. I call this the “What the ____ am I doing? Phase.” Then there was the shaping. In this phase we felt like we had something. There was a story in there, but it was really deep in there. Finally, it was off to college, where you think, “I hope they like my baby.”
I don’t think that we will ever lose that feeling. I will always hope that they like my baby. Funny this might be like raising a child too…I worry and Amanda did all the heavy lifting. It’s been a great journey so far. I’m interested to see where our baby will take us.
A disturbing thing happened at the movie theatre and it has to do with a question we all get asked. Innocently waiting for a The Fighter to start, a man walked by and struck up a conversation with my friend. They were friends. He asked a question that has become so ubiquitous that no one even notices, and it wasn’t, “How are you?” It was the one that followed immediately after. “Are you busy?” Not are you busy at the moment because it was obvious that we were waiting for the movie to start, but the thing that permeates almost every one of our waking moments. Are you occupied? Are you scheduled? Basically are you doing anything worthwhile? Guilt is the sinkhole of a foundation because we’re never really as busy as we should be. That’s the problem.
I don’t think it’s so much, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” as it is that you’re a loser if you’re not busy. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been busy, eyes bleeding, can’t see straight, waking at home not knowing where I am because I’m so used to being in a hotel room busy. From September through the end of last year I spent fourteen days at home. I flew to London for day and a half, slept in my car one night, and kept a schedule fueled by adrenaline and caffeine, even though I don’t really drink coffee.
I feel conflicted by “busy,” I do my own schedule and if I didn’t do it to myself it would be sadistic, but I worry that I’m losing time for idle thought—those times when something just pops into my mind. If there’s always something going on in there, then there’s no room for the idle thought. That’s a big loss, not to mention the cell phones that end up in the toilet.
We watched The Fighter on that January 1st night, deep in the heart of New Year’s Resolutions. Around that time I wrote about not a New Year’s Resolution, but starting to develop a good habit. I have to admit that I haven’t done too well, but that’s the beauty of a good habit versus a resolution. It takes a while to develop a habit, but you have one bowl of ice cream after ten at night and you’ve shattered a resolution.
John Lennon sang, “Life’s what happens while we’re busy doing other things.” But if we’re always doing other things when does life happen?
My habit is scheduling—not more, but less. I want to create sharp edges in my schedule, not the obscure ones that make me think that I’ve been working all day and I can’t remember what I’ve done. Separating work from play, carving out time for workouts, and most importantly allowing time for idle thought because those are the times when I feel smart. A thought jumps in my head and I think, “that’s a really good thought.”
“Are you busy?”