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Paralympian Inspires Students with Lesson on Perseverance
Bronxville, NY

Elementary and middle school students hosted Paralympian athlete Chris Waddell as a distinguished guest at their school on Dec. 7. The purpose of his visit was to impart a valuable lesson on perseverance and resilience. 

Waddell, a professional skier who faced a life-altering skiing accident 35 years ago that left him paralyzed from the waist down, shared his journey of triumph over adversity. Since the accident, Waddell has been dedicated to ensuring that his disability doesn't define him. 

“His message of empowerment to students was, ‘It's not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you,’” Bronxville Elementary School Principal Rakiya Adams said. “He shared that many people, including doctors, have told him that he would not be able to do many things in his life because he's a paraplegic, but he has defied many of those odds.” 

Following his retirement from professional sport, Waddell achieved a remarkable feat as the first nearly unassisted paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. The accomplishment served as a platform to change societal perception of individuals with disabilities. Waddell has dedicated himself to reshaping not only how society views people with disabilities, but how individuals see themselves.  

“The most meaningful aspect of Mr. Waddell's presentation was how he overcame an obstacle that could have taken him away from the sport he loves most and all other physical activity,” Adams said. “He connected this in such a natural way for students who may have lacked the confidence to achieve a goal to prove how resilience and determination will yield success in the end.”

Aligned with the Bronxville Promise, which encourages students to reflect on engaged citizenship, innovation, critical thinking, leadership and belonging, Waddell's presentation touched on all of these aspects. It served as a reminder of how these dispositions can be applied in the most challenging situations.