A local paralympian is getting ready for what he calls the biggest challenge of his life. After competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Ryan Chalmers will push across America to bring awareness to wheelchair athletes.
"I'm Ryan Chalmers and this spring I'm going to push across America."
Beginning in Los Angeles on April 6, Ryan Chalmers will set out on a coast-to-coast push that will end in New York's Central Park June 15.
It's all to help raise funds for an organization called Stay Focused. The not-for-profit group is based in Grand Cayman and allows teens and young adults with disabilities to participate in sports alongside able-bodied people.
The 24-year-old is hoping his cross country journey will help build awareness for wheelchair sports.
"That's really been a goal of mine since I was little to just build awareness for wheelchair sports and show people, the able bodied community, that it's not any different."
Chalmers was born with spina bifida. Ryan got involved in wheelchair athletics through the Rochester Rehabilitation Center at the Al Sigl Community of Agencies. He competed in the marathon, 800 meters, 400 meters and 4x400 meter relay in the London Paralympics.
Chalmers says the push across America will be his greatest challenge.
"I've never gone 3,400 miles before. I actually did a push across Cayman November 24, which was a 55 mile push around the island. That was the first time I ever pushed that distance. Before that, I pushed 34 miles, so that was kind of a test for me because the average day for the push across America is going to be 60 miles."
Ryan's push across America will take him through the desert southwest, into the Rocky Mountains and across the Great Plains. Unfortunately, he will not be coming through the Rochester area. The closest he'll come is Philadelphia before reaching the finish line in New York City.
The 2007 Churchville-Chili High School graduate believes he's physically ready for a grueling 71-day journey.
"It's going to be hard and my muscles are going to hurt along the way but it's going to be that mental part that's going to be difficult; those days where I'm just pushing by myself for five hours and not really much around me. I'm just pushing and I have to just sit down and remember why I started this journey in the first place."
Once his push across America is complete, Ryan will return to Rochester share his experience and help inspire others with disabilities.