Challenged Athletes Foundation Grants to Disabled Athletes in NJ
New Jersey Navigators practice at Rahway River Park
The New Jersey Navigators practice on the Rahway River Park track on Saturday, April 30, 2022.
Michael Karas, Cherry Hill Courier
Sometimes another kid asks Logan Marmino what happened to his left leg. It tends to appear at baseball gameswhen Marmino plays left field or second base for the Jersey State Bombers.
The only player on his Medford-based travel squad with a visible disabilityMarmino has a ready answer.
“I usually ask them if they eat their vegetables, and they usually say no,” said Marmino, a 12-year-old from the Burlington County town. “I say my leg fell off because I didn’t eat my vegetables.”
In truth, Marmino was born below the knee amputee due to a medical condition called amniotic band syndrome. He runs with a prosthetic blade, fitted with a baseball cleat – a feat that might not be possible without the help of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
The San Diego-based nonprofit helped Marmino acquire his first prosthesis in 2018 and replace it as he grew. This spring, the nonprofit organization awarded grants to seven New Jersey residents, including the ballplayer from Medford, a sprinter and wrestler from Paramus and a triathlete from Cherry Hill.
The foundation distributed nearly 3,300 grants worth $6.2 million in 83 sports and activities this spring. Awards were given to athletes in all 50 states and 29 countries. Most prosthetics and specialized fitness equipment aren’t covered by insurance, so nonprofits like CAF are trying to provide more opportunities.
“Running is not a luxury,” said Marmino, who also participates in adaptive athletics for the New Jersey Navigators, who train at Rahway’s River Park.
“Running is running. If I want to run, I should be able to run. Any kid should be able to run,” Marmino said. “We’re not that challenged, when you think about it. Maybe in our own way, we’re like [other kids.] We may be missing a few members.”
Dylan Klink of Toms River was another recipient. When she was about to turn 2, Klink underwent surgery to remove a polyp from her colon. She suffered a stroke during the procedure and now suffers from cerebral palsy.
But with the help of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the 12-year-old is looking forward to making it to the Move United Junior Nationals in Denver in July. She will compete in athletics and swimming.
Her parents are swimmers and her mother Dana Klink joked, “We literally pushed her into the pool.” Dylan competed in butterfly, backstroke and freestyle for four seasons. She is also a sprinter, long jumper and pitcher, all with the Navigators.
“It doesn’t matter that we’re different from most people,” Klink said. “All together, everyone around the world, we are extremely extraordinary.”
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During Kelly Worrell’s first triathlon, she “backstroked the whole time” and rode a borrowed mountain bike that “I couldn’t shift gears on,” the Cherry Hill wife recalled.
Five years later, a grant from the foundation enabled Worrell, who has a congenital disability that affects her right arm, to purchase an adapted bicycle. The bike, which cost around $3,000 in 2018, allows him to shift and brake using only his left arm.
Worrell, 44, took silver and qualified for para-nationals in her first race on this new bike. She is ranked seventh in the world in paratriathlon, and this year’s CAF scholarship will allow her to travel to a World Championship Series race on May 14 in Yokohama, Japan, her first international competition.
“Cycling has been a game-changer for me. It has given me the tools and the confidence to keep going and do more,” said Worrell, associate director of Athletes with Disabilities Network Northeast, who was named a Para-Athlete. 2021 development of USA Triathlon. the year.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is how inaccessible basic things are to people with disabilities, like a bike or a leg to go for a run. If you have a child who is an amputee and wants to run on the track, you You can’t just go to Foot Locker and buy a pair of Nikes.”
The foundation allowed Giovanni DiPersia, a 9-year-old athlete from Paramus, to meet “kids who felt the same way, who struggled the same way,” according to his mother, Lauren. They flew to San Diego for an event in October 2019, when Gio was just 6 years old.
The following spring, DiPersia joined the Navigators. A few months later, he received a grant for his first running blade.
DiPersia’s left leg was amputated below the knee at 13 months old due to a birth defect. Now he is a sprinter, thrower and swimmer.
He will use his latest CAF grant to return to the Move United Junior National Championships in July – and for private lessons in a new sport, wrestling. DiPersia joined RedNose Wrestling School in Hackensack this year, sometimes stepping onto the mat without his prosthesis.
He also enjoys wrestling his 13-year-old sister, Sadie.
“My goal is to get better in athletics and wrestling,” DiPersia said. “I’m already good, but I want to improve.”
“Awareness is the most important thing,” added Marmino, the Medford ball player. “The more I raise awareness, the more people don’t have to teach others or feel different from others. If able-bodied people are comfortable with struggling athletes, and vice versa, they will know that we are not so different. and maybe as good as them.”
Jane Havsy is a storyteller for the Daily Record and DailyRecord.com, part of the USA TODAY Network. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, subscribe today.
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2022 New Jersey CAF Grant Recipients
Alanna Flax-Clark, 38, Annandale, equestrian/dressage
Dylan Klink, 12, Toms River, Swimming
Giovanni DiPersia, 9 Paramus, Personal Training
Jasmine Murrell, 33, Elizabeth, athletics
Kelly Worrell, 44, Cherry Hill, triathlon
Logan Marmino, 12, Medford, baseball
Mikhail Joshua “MJ” Catuncan, 12, Union, Athletics