It did not start out that way. It started out with me falling asleep waiting for my daughter to call me when she was ready to be picked up from her dawn rowing practice. Her new rowing club does not typically practice at dawn; but her river was about to be closed for the Dad Vail Regatta, so dawn was the only time.
Anyway, she called me (I did not answer) and then she called her sister (who did answer) and found me sitting at the dining room table "resting my eyes." I thought for sure the rest of the day would be a series of errors and chaos.
However, it was just chaos, which is my ideal state! The best part of the chaos: Lily is now classified as a PR3 pararower by US Rowing. I know it sounds funny to say that you are so excited for your daughter to be classified as an impaired athlete.
But, Lily is impaired and she isn't ashamed of herself or her impairment. Two years ago, when she started rowing she found a sport she loved; but also found herself in a situation that made her feel ashamed for the way her body worked. The second year was marked with exclusion, marginalization, tears and really tough mental struggles. It was also marked with prayer and grit and then the good luck of finding an amazing crew coach Brannon Johnson at BLJ Rowing in Philly. Brannon reminded Lily in every lesson that Lily belonged on the water and that the water was for everyone.
Lily was brave and left her high school club and then found a new home and more incredible, supportive, tough, supportive coaches at South Jersey Rowing Club.
And now, Lily has found herself.
Her PR3 classification opens the door for more opportunities for Lily to row; but also for Lily to lead by example. There are so many adolescents and young adults like Lily--not disabled enough for programs like Special Olympics; but not deemed able enough for their school or community teams. Sports should never be out of reach to anyone who wants to play. Children like Lily who have faced life threatening diseases like childhood cancer are at higher risk for heart disease and obesity because physical fitness opportunities are simply not available to them.
Inclusion in sports isn't just giving the kid with an impairment a chance to throw out the opening pitch--it is about giving the kid with an impairment an opportunity to train, learn, grow and throw out all the pitches--because they can.
Impairment does not take away potential.
Lily's little brother was with us today during her weekly PT and then classification session in Philly. After it was over, he gave her a big hug and then came to me and whispered in my ear: "Mommy, I am going to play hard today in my lacrosse game like Lily does at crew."
He won his game.
His sister is a game changer. I cannot wait to see how much she changes the world just by living in it fully, completely and without asking for permission to dream big.