Making a Difference, One Paralympic Athlete at a Time
Jun 9, 2015
Stephen Lawler was born with L2-5 Spina Bifida, a debilitating disease that would normally spell the end of any hopes or dreams for athletic competition. But not Stephen. By age six he started skiing. By the time he graduated from high school he was on his way to Winter Park, Colorado where he ultimately made the US Paralympic Ski team. He’ll tell you that he hasn’t looked back since.
I got to know Stephen, and his story, while attending the 20th anniversary of Adaptive Spirit’s SKITAM event. Hosted annually in Vail, Colorado by the not-for-profit cable and telco industry association, SKITAM donates all the proceeds from the event to the US Paralympic Ski and Snow Board Team. Cable giants Cox, Comcast, Charter Communications, WOW! TWC and Bright House Networks were all among the supporters, along with many other companies, united in their efforts to make an impact.
And what an impact they had: During the 2015 event, a record-breaking $1.3 million dollars was raised through the concerted efforts of the Adaptive Spirit team, the participating sponsors and the hundreds of family members and friends who came out to support. A huge sum indeed and up from the $1.1 million that was raised the year before.
According to Lisa Guess, VP Americas Systems Engineering, who joined me at the event together with members of the cable account team, “At Juniper, we are driven by a singular focus to connect everything and empower everyone. That is not only our reason for being, but it is also why we support programs that reflect that passion to empower people like Stephen.”
For athletes, success is very often based on size, shape, strength, speed and endurance. Young people blessed with one, or several of those attributes often find great success on the field, in the pool, on the slope and in the ring. But for especially successful athletes, those that achieve those mind-numbing records and seemingly impossible accomplishments, there’s an extra edge, and it has nothing to do with size or speed. Enter Paralympic athletes who in my opinion, represent the new definition of “role model.” Olympic-level contenders whose extra edge in competitive athletics is a psychological one and who work out, sweat, endure god-awful training regimens and just like able-bodied athletes, HATE losing. Samsung said it best with this commercial they released during the Sochi 2014 competition. The tag line? “What’s Your Problem? Sport Doesn’t Care.”
For Stephen, not trying would have been losing. And losing isn’t an option. He recently competed in the 2015 IPC Alpine World Championships and has his sights firmly set on making the 2018 Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea. In the short amount of time that I’ve known him, it’s clear to me that it’s his conviction, confidence and discipline that drive him towards success. He represents for me the true essence of what it means to be a role model and demonstrates it every day with courage, humor, candor and confidence. Click here to see his story.
Which brings me back to Juniper, the Adaptive Spirit, SKiTAM and the incredible efforts of a united cable and telecommunications industry to empower individuals while raising awareness, and funds, for the US Paralympic Ski and Snow Board team. Making a difference while elevating role models, one at a time.