The Story Behind Wheel Rise
written by Léony Boudreau
It all started when I had the amazing opportunity to meet with Shelby Gruss, who was the captain of the USA wheelchair basketball team and who is now pursuing her PhD at Purdue in Agronomy. My career aspirations are to build a team of experts who will all be inspired in providing Paralympic athletes with the services they need to achieve their full potential. These services will include the design and innovation of the prosthetics and equipment they need for performance, as well as other necessary services like sport psychology and athletic training. This is why I'm studying in Biomedical Engineering along with four other minors (psychology, critical disabilities, Innovation and Transformational Change and pursuing the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation). I'm fortunate enough to be a student-athlete at Purdue University, where I am surrounded by amazing and supportive leaders. I am learning in an encouraging environment where I can seek all opportunities to gain the most knowledge and find ways to make the most impact in people's lives. These aspirations are also why, when I saw Shelby one day on campus, I had the feeling that I needed to ask Shelby her contact information and plan to have lunch with her.
I believe that Paralympic sports deserve more support and attention. Therefore, during our lunch we talked about her suggestions for my career goals, but we also discussed a way to raise awareness for Paralympic sports. We both felt that together we could help the community learn more about Paralympic Sports, inspire people to achieve their full potential and show the world how much Purdue University cares and understands the importance of diversity and inclusion. This is when the idea of creating this event was born.
Since then, we had tremendous support from Purdue University as a whole, especially from the great collaboration between the Engineering and the Athletic Departments. I also had the privilege to meet with President Daniels about the idea. I was truly pleased by his enthusiasm and support. With all this amazing support, the impact and the expectations for this event raised to a higher level. The potential inspirational movement that we are about to create has definitely become broader. It is impressive to see how well we can collaborate when we are all unified for a great cause.
Shelby Gruss got me in contact with her prior coach, Stephanie Wheeler, who, amongst other outstanding accomplishments, received a Gold medal at the Paralympic games in Beijing and who is now coaching wheelchair basketball at Illinois University. They will have about 20 people (staff and athletes) come to Purdue, some of them who participated in national teams. We will also involve the men's and women's basketball teams from Purdue and make it fun and interactive for the audience. The event will be free for attendants and food will be available. We are hoping to use the full capacity of Holloway gym, which is about 2500 people. The event will be from 2pm to 5pm on September 14th, before our home football game against TCU (at 7:30pm). We are organizing a wheelchair basketball game, along with talks from influential speakers and interactive activities between attendants and the athletes present. All my actions are devoted to one single purpose, and that is to inspire people to achieve their full potential. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to apply this principle on a broader scale with the tremendous support and encouragement available at Purdue University. I am beyond proud to represent Purdue University as a student-athlete and I feel fortunate to be able to learn, grow and impact the world surrounded by caring and supportive leaders.