New area program for disabled kids

Many disabled kids in our area often find themselves sitting on the sidelines of life, but one local man wants our area youth to know being disabled doesn't mean you can't enjoy life as fully as anyone else.

Joe Chris Rodriguez lost the use of his legs while serving in the Air Force, and when he returned, he refused to accept the expected limitations inherent in being disabled. Instead, he started competing in wheelchair sports like basketball, softball, and track - and he says no one should feel let a disability rob them of quality of life - least of all children.

So Joe Chris started "One Chair at a Time," which raises funds for specialized sports wheelchairs to get kids out of their living rooms and get back to living.

"As I've gotten older, I want to give back to the community, and I know how it is to have a disability," says Rodriguez. "And to be able to compete and play sports ... it's a great feeling when you train, and then you get done, and you're finished with that event, how you feel about yourself. So what we really want to do is change some kids' lives; keep them off the drugs, the depression, the Playstations, and get them really active - I think it'd be great."

One Chair at a Time is focused on teenagers, and the idea is to provide not just a wheelchair, but also a new circle of friends and activities, and newfound confidence that kids can carry with them the rest of their lives.

"At that age, their fellow classmates are all playing sports," says Rodriguez. "A lot of them don't know that there's opportunities for them to play, so I think that starting this One Chair at a Time, not only getting them sport wheelchairs, but mentoring them - running beside them, helping them train, giving them the techniques that we've learned."

Rodriguez is working very closely with Wheel Time, Inc in Pampa, which strives to make sports available to any and all with the desire to participate.

You can learn more about One Chair at a Time or Wheel Time, Inc. at the links attached to this story.