BOISE -- Imagine being injured in an accident and losing your ability to walk. How would you handle it? Could you deal with, and overcome your disability?
You're about to meet three people living in the Treasure Valley who each received that devastating news, but have met their challenges with hope and positivity. All three have now become athletes who inspire people every day.
Randy Corbett, Steve Baxter and Makenzie Ellsworth are this week's 7's Heroes. The trio of racquet swinging, wheelchair athletes have made a name for themselves in wheelchair tennis.
This past weekend all played in an international wheelchair tennis tournament in Portland.
Randy Corbett is the driving force behind the Idaho Wheelchair Tennis Association - and he's also ranked 9th in the nation. Corbett was injured in a motorcycle accident about 23 years ago, and says "it's truly incredible" the he even survived.
Steve Baxter is ranked 56th in the world in his division. He was paralyzed 8 years ago. "I was actually injured on a trampoline of all things," Baxter said.
21-year-old Makenzie Ellsworth won the doubles title in Portland last year. She was paralyzed in a 2006 car accident. "Since then I've just been in a chair, living life, trying to do my thing," Ellsworth said.
The trio of athletes found wheelchair tennis after their injuries, and say playing the sport has been a major part of their emotional healing.
Corbett says the new-found sport changed his life.
The sentiment is echoed by Baxter, who said he's now actively traveling and playing internationally. "After I got hurt, it took me several years," Baxter said. I was searching around trying multiple things to find something I could get passionate about again. Wheelchair tennis was it!"
Ellsworth agrees. "For me, it's just great to get that competitive feeling again and to work out."
Meanwhile, the Idaho Wheelchair Tennis Association is always looking for more players. However, members say it's important to know that not every wheelchair is appropriate for the sport, and in order for this sport to grow, athletes have to have access to specialized chairs.
Good news: thanks to donations, fund raising tournaments, and grants, the organization now owns ten chairs. Six new players have also joined the roster this year.
Corbett says he also wants to raise money in our community to buy ten more chairs, because he has big plans for the future of wheelchair tennis in Boise.
How big are those plans?
"I want to run a national tournament here," Corbett said, adding that he's aiming to hold the tourney in September of 2013.
"People have no idea how important something like this is to people who have lost so much," Corbett summarizes.
The Ability Team
What's more, all three players are also part of the Boise Parks and Rec. Department's "Ability Team." That means they get together with other wheelchair athletes to teach disability awareness at free school asemblies. The ability team, does demonstrations in wheelchair basketball and tennis, gives personal testimonials, and answers questions.
To contact the "Ability Team," call 608-7680.