Weekly Feature



2017-04-20 / Lifestyles

Paralympic gold medalist shares her story at WNY Girls In Sports

by NICK KONOTOPSKYJ
Reporter


Discovery School 67 students Emma Connors, left, Gabby Juliano, Madelyn Hart and her sister, Ellie, participate in the yoga station during the WNY Girls in Sports event held at UB’s Alumni Arena on April 8. Yoga was one of seven sports offered, with the others being soccer, basketball, running, pickleball, golf and volleyball. In the program’s 11-year history, this is the second time it was held at UB. 
Photos by Jim Smerecak.Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Discovery School 67 students Emma Connors, left, Gabby Juliano, Madelyn Hart and her sister, Ellie, participate in the yoga station during the WNY Girls in Sports event held at UB’s Alumni Arena on April 8. Yoga was one of seven sports offered, with the others being soccer, basketball, running, pickleball, golf and volleyball. In the program’s 11-year history, this is the second time it was held at UB. Photos by Jim Smerecak.Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com It is estimated that the average child should get somewhere around 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day. The effort to get the younger generation to live healthy and become active in sports is shown in organizations throughout the United States and recently in Western New York.

On April 8, over 250 girls, ages 9 to 12, gathered in Alumni Arena on the North Campus of the University at Buffalo for the 11th annual Western New York Girls in Sports. The afternoon event featured participants from 10 Buffalo public schools, along with the Lackawanna City School District.


April Holmes, track and field Paralympic gold medalist, was the honorary guest speaker at the 11th annual WNY Girls in Sports event held on April 8 at UB’s Alumni Arena. Holmes lost her left leg below the knee in 2001 after a train accident. April Holmes, track and field Paralympic gold medalist, was the honorary guest speaker at the 11th annual WNY Girls in Sports event held on April 8 at UB’s Alumni Arena. Holmes lost her left leg below the knee in 2001 after a train accident. WNY Girls in Sports is hosted by United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, Girl Scouts of WNY and the Buffalo Public Schools to help generate excitement among young girls about participating in sports.

“The girls had the opportunity to try seven different sports: volleyball, golf, basketball, soccer, running, yoga and pickleball,” said Emily More, event coordinator for WNY Girls in Sports. “Throughout the afternoon, they rotated from station to station so everyone got to play each sport.”

The event also gave the girls a chance to meet and recognize a role model. April Holmes, a Paralympic gold medalist in track and field, was the guest speaker. She spoke about her story, perseverance and ensuing athletic achievements that got her to where she is today.

“I’ve been running track since I was 5 years old,” Holmes said. “I got into a train accident back in 2001 and lost my left leg [below the knee]. After the accident, I started running Paralympic track and have been doing that ever since. I have been to four Paralympic Games and have had a very successful career.”

Besides her 2008 Paralympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash, Holmes has several other athletic achievements on the track, including breaking International Paralympic Committee world records 14 times and American records eight times in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and long jump combined; five World Championship medals; and a bronze medal in the 100-meter dash at the 2012 Paralympic Games.

This was Holmes’ first time visiting Buffalo, and she talked about what it is like to reach out to young, aspiring athletes who are just finding out what sports they like the best.

“Anytime you can give back to young people where you have been in their situations before and can help enrich their lives is always great to me,” Holmes said. “An active lifestyle leads to a healthy lifestyle, so these girls will go through many different sports and meet mentors, so there should be a great connection that is made. There are plenty of sports to choose from, so there should be no young lady that leaves here without finding something that she enjoys doing.”

This was the second time that the event, which began in 2006, was held on the campus of UB.

“When the program started, it was hosted by the Buffalo Bills when the Wilsons owned the team,” More said. “Since Ralph passed away and they sold the team, Mary [Wilson] came to United Way and asked them to take over this event. Based on an endowment gift, we are able to continue this program.”

Mary Wilson is the founder of WNY Girls in Sports, and the event was previously held in the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse. The grant that supports the program is from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

“We have been fortunate enough to have an Olympic athlete at the last three events, and it has really upped the ante for the girls to see someone that has made it so far in their athletic career,” More said. “To reinforce that strong female presence is really empowering for the girls, and I think that is great.”

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