Kirstie Ennis’ story may have begun when she lost her leg after her helicopter went down in Afghanistan, but it certainly doesn’t end there. After more than 40 surgeries and the amputation of her leg first below and then above the knee after a life-threatening infection, the former Marine sergeant has already accomplished more than most people have in their lifetimes.
Kirstie was the 2019 ESPY’s Pat Tillman Award recipient. In 2020, she was the recipient of the “Higher Ground” award at the Salute to Greatness Awards, held by the Martin Luther King Jr. family. She was also inducted into the 2020 International Sports Hall of Fame.
After an accident that left him completely blind in 1997, military veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, raised three daughters as a single father, became an award-winning author, a renowned adventure athlete and a motivational speaker. He holds first blind kayak descents on the Grand Canyon, Zambezi, and Gauley Rivers, representing some of the world’s most challenging whitewater. Lonnie was awarded the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2015.
At age 19, while serving in the Army, Orlando Perez was paralyzed from the waist down. After discovering adapted sports through the VA there was no turning back. He has tried nearly every sport and advocates to get others involved. Orlando starred on the Puerto Rican national wheelchair basketball team medaling at the Para Pan-Am Games and several international competitions.
He now has his sights set on becoming the first athlete from Puerto Rico to compete in the Winter Paralympic Games in his new found passion, mono-ski racing.
After his proud service in the US Navy, a motorcycle accident in 1998 left Michael Ballard a triple amputee losing both his legs and his left arm. Through his faith that provides him a clear purpose, he has been able to live through and be strengthened by any obstacle.
Michael was introduced to adapted sports through VA programs. His ever-growing list of sports include cycling, archery, bowling, table tennis, swimming and jet skiing.
Michael is truly a Man of Distinction who welcomes every opportunity to share with others how faith, sports, and adversity intersected in his life to keep him looking forward with resilience.