Push Across athletes visit schools

Montessori kids crowd around the Push Across Cayman team, from left, Arielle Rausin, Ryan Chalmers and Mary Kate Callahan, for a group shot. - PHOTOS: ALMA CHOLLETTE

Three Paralympic athletes taking part in a 55-mile race across Grand Cayman on Sunday have spent this week visiting schools.

The trio, Ryan Chalmers, Mary Kate Callahan and Arielle Rausin, will race in the Push Across Cayman event, and are inviting children to bring along their bicycles to come out and support them when they do a victory lap at the Cayman Islands International School at the end of the race.

Push Across Cayman is a Stay-Focused foundation initiative to raise awareness and empower persons with disabilities.

Throughout this week, Stay-Focused President Roger Muller and the participating athletes have been making visits and presentations to schools across Cayman.

“The students love meeting the athletes, hearing their stories of accomplishment, and asking questions,” said Mr. Muller.

The “Push” campaign “is a natural extension” of the work Stay-Focused is involved in, Mr. Muller added. Its work includes generating knowledge and awareness for the potential of all people with disabilities.

The foundation has been operating programs in Cayman for 12 years. In 2010, it was instrumental in establishing a wheelchair category in the Cayman Islands Marathon and each year Stay-Focused alumni have taken part.

“I’m so excited to be in Cayman this year to participate in my first Push Across Cayman,” said Mary Kate Callahan, of Chicago. “Pushing 55 miles through the towns in Cayman with other Stay-Focused alumni is going to be an experience of a lifetime.”

The University of Arizona student added, “I’m also looking forward to visiting schools during the week to continue to build awareness in Cayman about everything athletes with disabilities are doing. Cayman has always welcomed us with open arms and I’m thrilled to be back.”

Following the athletes’ joint presentation at Cayman Prep Primary School on Monday, Principal Trish Taylor said, “We have been delighted to have Roger and Ryan visit our assemblies for the last few years. Their commitment and resilience is inspiring and the students are always interested in how the athletes train, as well as their time spent scuba diving on the island. A number of our students plan to support Push Across Cayman on Sunday.”

Ryan Chalmers chats with students at Montessori by the Sea.
Ryan Chalmers chats with students at Montessori by the Sea.

The race begins at 6 a.m. in Camana Bay, and will take the athletes through George Town, Bodden Town, around East End, and into North Side. These Paralympians will then push their way back into George Town taking the South Sound Road and finish their race back in Camana Bay.

Children are encouraged to bring their bikes, as they will have the opportunity to partake in the Bike Rodeo – a victory lap around the Cayman Islands International School with the athletes. There will be a prize for the best decorated bike.

“The kids love meeting our alumni and spending time with them,” said Mr. Muller, “so, it’s fun for them to join our athletes for a victory lap at the end of the Push. They like having photos taken with them and having our athletes autograph their T-shirts.”

Also, between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon, participants will be given “the chance to try a racing bike, gloves provided,” said Mr. Chalmers at his recent presentation to Montessori by The Sea School on Tuesday afternoon.

However, these are no ordinary gloves – Ms. Rausin explained to the children that they are 3-D printed gloves. She designed and created them herself initially as part of her college’s Digital Making course.

The public is encouraged to attend as, “the most important take-away is that persons with disabilities should be viewed no differently than able-bodied persons. See the athletes, not the chairs,” said Mr. Muller.

Drivers are urged to be aware that the athletes will be on the roads between 6 a.m. and noon.

The Push Across Cayman team will visiting Hope Academy, George Town Primary and Cayman International School on Thursday and Clifton Hunter High School on Friday.