Inspiring Disabled Persons News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspiring Disabled Persons News Stories in Major Media
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Reaching the summit of Mount Everest is a triumph for any climber, but for Erik Weihenmayer, the accomplishment is even more impressive. That’s because he is blind. Born with a rare eye disease, Mr. Weihenmayer lost his sight at age 13 and later discovered a sense of freedom through climbing. Over the years, the 50-year-old has reached the highest peaks on seven continents and also kayaked the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. A former schoolteacher, Mr. Weihenmayer co-founded No Barriers, a nonprofit organization that teaches outdoor skills to those with physical challenges. "Growing up in Connecticut, my Dad would drive me three hours to Massachusetts once a month to this adventure program for the blind, [said Mr. Weihenmayer]. "They took us to New Hampshire and we rock climbed on these beautiful granite rock faces. It was very tactile. That’s what I really loved about it. You can feel all these little knobs and cracks and fissures and little dishes in the rock. So you’re problem-solving with your hands and feet as your eyes. You had to put your body in all these cool, acrobatic positions to get yourself from point A to point B and you’re trying to solve this puzzle that’s embedded in the rock. I loved the great adventure. I got to the top and I could hear the valley below me. I could hear the wind blowing through the trees. And I thought this is so stunning. This is what I want out of my life."
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Glenn Cunningham, a former world-record holder in the mile run who in 1979 was named the greatest track performer in the history of Madison Square Garden, died yesterday. He was 78 years old. That Mr. Cunningham could win 21 of 31 mile races on the indoor track at the Garden during his prime in the 1930's was impressive. More significantly, he did it after suffering life-threatening burns on both legs as a 7-year-old when a stove in a school classroom in Everetts, Kan., exploded, killing his older brother Floyd. After being told there was a strong possibility he would never walk again, he spent seven months in bed, and then received daily massages from his mother, who kneaded his damaged muscles and sped his way to walking, and then running. In high school, he played baseball and football and boxed and wrestled. At 13, he entered his first high school mile race and won easily. Using running as therapy for the burn injuries, he found that middle distances suited him. At a sophomore at the University of Kansas, Mr. Cunningham set an American record for the mile with a time of 4 minutes 11.1 seconds. He was selected as a member of the United States team for the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and finished fourth in the 1,500-meter run. In 1933 he won the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. In his competitions at Madison Square Garden, Mr. Cunningham set six world records in the mile and the 1,500 meters and another at 1,000 yards.
Note: For more on the incredibly inspiring story of this great man, read this engaging article. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of news articles on incredibly inspiring disabled persons.
Carly Fleischmann has severe autism and is unable to speak a word. But ... this 13-year-old has made a remarkable breakthrough. Two years ago, working with pictures and symbols on a computer keyboard, she started typing and spelling out words. The computer became her voice. "All of a sudden these words started to pour out of her, and it was an exciting moment because we didn't realize she had all these words," said speech pathologist Barbara Nash. Then Carly began opening up, describing what it was like to have autism. Carly writes about her frustrations with her siblings, how she understands their jokes and asks when can she go on a date. "We were stunned," Carly's father Arthur Fleischmann said. "We realized inside was an articulate, intelligent, emotive person that we had never met. This ... opened up a whole new way of looking at her." This is what Carly wants people to know about autism. "It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can't talk or I act differently than them. I think people get scared with things that look or seem different than them." Carly had another message for people who don't understand autism. "Autism is hard because you want to act one way, but you can't always do that. It's sad that sometimes people don't know that sometimes I can't stop myself and they get mad at me. If I could tell people one thing about autism it would be that I don't want to be this way. But I am, so don't be mad. Be understanding."
John Bramblitt believes he could draw before he could walk. Art was also his way of coping with spending much of his childhood in the hospital. After experiencing his first seizure at age 2, Bramblitt was diagnosed with severe epilepsy. After each seizure, his vision would remain blurry for a while, but then it would clear up. What neither he nor his doctors realized was that his vision was decreasing each time. In his mid-20s, while attending college for the second time at the University of North Texas in 2001, he received the news that he would lose the rest of his vision. There was nothing doctors could do to stop it. He was completely blind by the time fall semester began. When he was alone, he felt like he was losing his mind. That's when he remembered the joy he used to gain from creating art. He began by trying to draw simple shapes, but would feel his pencil run off the paper. Bramblitt realized he needed to create a structure to follow. Fabric paint, which would create raised lines as it dried, became his new pencil, and he used oil paints to bring the paintings to life. He used [touch] to "see" what he wanted to paint and to distinguish between oil paints, because each color had a different viscosity and texture. Encouraged by the way it made him feel, he would paint for hours every day. Over the years, Bramblitt has connected with charities and started a series of workshops for artists with and without sight, young and old. He believes art should be something everyone can connect with. After all, art changed his life.
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The 2,190-mile long Appalachian Trail is daunting even to those who have no trouble walking. That hasn't stopped Stacey Kozel. Her paralyzed body hasn't stopped her, either. The 41-year-old ... was always active until lupus stole her muscles and strength. Since her diagnosis at 19, she ... had always managed to get back on her feet - until a flare-up in March 2014. "I walked into a hospital, came out in a wheelchair," recalled Stacey Kozel. Although Kozel was able to walk stiffly with an old pair of braces, they wouldn't help her walk comfortably enough to embrace the outdoors. The chance finally came when she came across the Ottobock C-Brace. The brace functions essentially as the muscles and bones of a leg. The price tag for the technology was steep: $75,000 each. Kozel's doctors and therapists knew that getting these braces covered by insurance would be an uphill climb. When her claim was finally approved after 12 months, she was "in shock." Three days after Kozel got her braces, Joey Pollak, Kozel's orthopedist, got a call saying Kozel was in a 5K race. "To say Stacey is an overachiever is an understatement," said Pollak. What Pollak did not know was an idea forming in Kozel's head. She wanted to show insurance companies how useful the braces can be for those who have lost their mobility. She set her mind on the Appalachian Trail, just two months after she received her braces. Now, with support from her orthopedist, her mother and strangers along the way, she is slowly approaching her destination.
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If you had asked me 20 years ago where I would be, I never would have imagined I would be a physician working at UCLA Health, one of the best medical centers in the country. For over 25 years, my physical disability threatened to define who I was and what others thought I could become. I contracted meningococcal disease at 8 years of age. The infection overwhelmed my body's defenses, and I became a triple amputee. The disease left me with just enough to survive and carry on: two full fingers of the left hand, the thumb and ring finger. The first few years were physically and emotionally grueling; I was in and out of the hospital for surgical procedures to make my lower limbs fit better into prosthetic legs. I couldn't walk for nearly three years. I grew so quickly, my prosthetic legs could not keep up. My father would give me piggyback rides from the car to our house. My mother, who became blind as a teen, learned how to help me dress and put on my prosthetic legs every morning for school. My younger brother, Tarring, would help bring things to me since my mobility was limited. And my older sister, Nellie, was and is my inspiration and role model. I have been extremely lucky to have a strong and resilient family. I was lucky to be in a place where I had great medical care and where I had a community of friends and schools that supported my recovery and believed in my ability to succeed despite my disability. But luck is only part of my success; it takes courage, determination, honesty and integrity to pursue your dreams.
Note: Dr. Kellie Lim, author of this article received her medical training from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. After getting her medical degree, she completed her residency in pediatrics before pursuing fellowship training in allergy & immunology and pharmacology. Today, she works as an allergist-immunologist at UCLA Health. Explore a treasure trove of summaries of news articles on incredibly inspiring disabled persons.
Most children want to dress up for Halloween, but for those confined to wheelchairs, it isn’t always that simple. Ryan Weimer understands that concept better than most. When his oldest son, Keaton, was 3 years old, he told his dad he wanted to be a pirate for Halloween. Instead of simply dressing him up, Weimer spent months building Keaton - who lives with muscular dystrophy - a pirate ship made of wood, tablecloth sails and specially-crafted cannons, all fitted to his wheelchair. Keaton was ecstatic - and his dad never forgot the feeling. "When you know that you have few memories to make with your kids, you want to make priceless ones," Weimer told NBC News, "and epic ones." His second son, Bryce, also lives with muscular dystrophy. Over the years, their wheelchair costumes have gotten more elaborate and attracted more attention. And this year, the Weimer family project became a hugely successful non-profit, called Magic Wheelchair. Volunteers from around the country donated their time, talents and resources to create dream costumes for eight lucky children — six from Weimer’s home state of Oregon and two from Georgia. "When we have challenges and trials and hard times, those are the things that define us," Weimer said. "It doesn’t' matter your circumstances, you can still make beautiful things ... and it's great to see other people get behind that."
Note: Don't miss this very touching video on Magic Wheelchairs.
The newest resident of "Sesame Street" has orange hair and a fondness for her toy rabbit. She also has autism. Julia has been a part of the "Sesame Street" family via its storybooks and was so popular that the decision was made to add the character to the TV series. "I think the big discussion right at the start was, 'How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?,'" one of the show's writers, Christine Ferraro, told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl. Over the almost five decades "Sesame Street" has been on the air, it has established a reputation for inclusion with its characters. Joan Ganz Cooney, one of the founders of the Children's Television Workshop which developed "Sesame Street," said it has also not been afraid to deal with real life issues. Julia's debut episode will deal with what autism can look like. The brain disorder can make it difficult for people with autism to communicate with and relate to others. The character of Big Bird talked to Stahl about his first interaction with Julia in which she ignored him. "I thought that maybe she didn't like me," he said. "Yeah, but you know, we had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird," the Elmo character added. "It's just that Julia has autism. So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things." Ferraro hopes that along with educating viewers about autism the new character will settle in as a part of the neighborhood. "I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism," the writer said. "I would like her to be just Julia."
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Andrew Short lives with spastic cerebral palsy, which he contracted during birth. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that effects muscle tone, movement and motor skills, but despite impaired speech Andrew’s disability doesn’t impair his mind, and he learned to read early. “I speak three languages,” said Andy. “English, German, and spastic. Spastic is my mother tongue." Andrew is currently completing a Masters Degree in Disability Studies, but his most impressive achievement has been walking the Kokoda Trail, which he describes as “the toughest physical challenge of [his] life”. In Andy’s late twenties, his motor function appeared to begin deteriorating. “We were told to accept that that's what it would be,” said [Andrew's father] David. Instead, David and Andrew began researching the emerging field of neuroplasticity ... inspired by the seminal [book], “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”. Andrew’s physical condition is due in part to his trainer, Lee Campbell, a former army trainer and Sydney Swans team member. The two have been training together for five and a half years, and in that time Lee estimates that his physical condition has risen from 2.5 to a 7 or 8. “You watch Andy pull a sled with 20 or 30 kilos of weights in it, he stands up, his posture is corrected,” said Lee. “His finer motor skills now are getting refined. He can hold things, he can cook, he can do his buttons up.” Right now, they’re training together for Andy’s next endeavour, walking the Great Wall of China.
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Dan Nevins commands his yoga class with authority. For Nevins, teaching yoga is much more than a job. It actually saved his life. Eleven years ago, while serving in Iraq, an IED exploded under his Army vehicle. The blast destroyed both his legs. "I just remember having this revelation that I'm alive, I'm alive! That I better do something to keep it that way." Nevins spent 18 months at Walter Reed Medical Center. With the help of the Wounded Warrior Project, he learned to climb mountains and play golf. But two years ago, while recovering from another surgery, he was bedridden and started having flashbacks. "And those thoughts of the not-so-great experiences from combat just kept coming back. I didn't get to the point of suicide, but I finally understood in those 8 weeks at home and I knew that I needed help." A friend suggested yoga to Nevins. "I was like 'No. One, I'm a guy; Two, I'm an Army guy; Three, I don't own any spandex, and no.'" Despite his reservations, he finally relented and took the class. "I got into this Warrior One pose. I rooted down and I felt this real surge of energy from the earth up into my body like into my soul and I shot up like 'Oh my God, I get it,' like the earth was saying 'where have you been the last ten years.'" Last year, Nevins completed yoga instructor training. Now hundreds of people come to his classes. "I felt if he can do it without legs, what's my excuse," said one student. Nevins hopes to reach both veterans and non-veterans alike.
Note: Don't miss the pictures of this inspiring yoga practice available at the link above.
“People always say to me, ‘Anyone who runs as much as you do deserves to be skinny.’ Of course, what they're really saying: ‘If you do all this running, why are you still so fat?’” Early that morning [Mirna] Valerio had led a three-mile group run around the campus of Rabun Gap-Na-coochee School in the nearby town of Rabun Gap, where she serves as Spanish teacher, choir director, and head coach of the cross-country team. She's about to start her second run of the day. Every run, every race, every traverse of a mountain trail, every gym workout, Valerio begins by taking a photo. “To prove that I was out here,” she explains. Later, she will post the photos on ... her blog, Fat Girl Running, in which she both writes of the joys of the running life and thoughtfully, humorously, and sometimes angrily rebuts her doubters, who can't believe that a self-described fat person might discover - or deserve - this kind of joy. With a BMI ... above the National Institutes of Health-established line defining obesity, Valerio, a marathoner, ultramarathoner, and trail runner, has emerged as ... a living argument that it's possible to be both fit and fat. “I'm pretty much in love with my body,” she writes. “Sometimes I get disappointed or angry with it, but like any long-term, committed relationship, it usually comes right back to love and respect.” By making peace with her obesity - or, more accurately, by fighting her disease to a kind of enduring, vigorously active truce - Valerio draws kudos from a formerly skeptical medical community.
Note: Read another great piece on this inspiring woman.
An autistic teenager has become an online sensation after a video demonstrating his unique technique as a barista - which involves plenty of dancing - went viral. Sam was filmed making a cup of coffee for a customer while working alongside his boss Chris at the Starbucks restaurant, believed to be in North America. The clip shows the teenager smiling and dancing while heating the milk and later pouring it into the cup of coffee, before adding whipped cream and sprinkles. Carly Fleischmann, who lives in Toronto, Canada, posted the video to YouTube and Facebook alongside a caption introducing Sam. Carly explained that when Sam was offered a position at Starbucks he told his parents that for the first time in his life he felt like he had real meaning. She added: 'Sam was diagnosed with autism and like some people with autism Sam has a movement disorder. Sam has a hard time keeping his body still. 'Sam never thought that he would be able to work behind the bar because of his sudden movements but his manager Chris believed in him and got Sam to channel his movements into dance.' The partnership was not an overnight success however and it has taken Sam and Chris many shifts and hours to get to the level demonstrated in the video. Sam is now known as the 'dancing barista' and Carly noted that if it was not for Chris believing in the ability of his employee then he would not have had the confidence to believe in himself.
Note: Don't miss the inspiring six-minute video of Sam and Chris on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
In 1978, 5-year-old Frank "Bopsy" Salazar was diagnosed with leukemia. A woman named Linda Pauling ... had lost her 7-year-old son, Chris, to leukemia that spring. But before Chris passed, the Arizona Department of Public Safety had fulfilled the little boy's dream of becoming a police officer. DPS officers Jim Eaves and Frank Shankwitz had met Chris with a patrol car and motorcycle and made him the only honorary Arizona Highway Patrol Officer in the department's history. The incredible effort inspired Pauling and Shankwitz to start the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "[Pauling] told me that instead of letting the kids just feel sorry for themselves, they wanted to grant wishes, to do something every kid would benefit from, to fulfill their dream while they're still a part of this world," Trujillo said. Shankwitz took over from there, and he went to visit Bopsy to find out more about the boy's dreams. After learning that he'd be granted a wish, the 7-year-old mulled it over. "I want to ride in a hot air balloon," he told Shankwitz. Then he thought about it some more. "No, I want to go to Disneyland." He paused again. "No, I want to be a fireman." But Shankwitz didn't make him pick. All of Bopsy's wishes would be granted. He got his balloon ride and his trip to Disneyland. Fireman Bob - whose real name is Bob Walp - did more than was asked of him to help the sick boy. "We didn't want to just give him a tour," Walp [recalled]. "We decided to give him a badge and a jacket. We let him use the hose. We took him in the truck."
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Seventeen-year-old Gabe Adams was born without arms and legs and suffers from a rare disease called hanhart syndrome, but that doesn't stop him from dancing. After spending most of his life in a wheelchair, he decided to join the dance team at Davis High School. During halftime at a basketball game Friday night, he performed in front of the whole school. Cheers rang out as Gabe put the word disability to shame. "I wanted to prove to myself and to others that there’s more to myself than just a kid in a wheelchair," Adams said. With practices three days a week, which last for more than three hours, dance team is no easy commitment. However, teammate Alexis Delahunty says Gabe makes it seem easy. "I can’t even imagine doing this without my arms and legs. It's so inspiring. He’s just amazing," Delahunty said. His dance teacher, Kim King, says Gabe has brought so much joy to the team and has pushed them all to work harder. "When they see him, they don’t realize how hard it is to get dressed, how hard it is to get in and out of his chair, but Gabe does everything by himself," King said. Gabe's father, Ron Adams, said Gabe is always pushing himself and taking each challenge in stride. "I don’t think everyone understands what it takes, the muscle coordination and development to balance when he doesn’t have limbs," Ron Adams said. He may not realize it, but Gabe is constantly inspiring the people around him.
Note: Note: Don't miss the amazing video at the link above. For more on this most impressive teenager, see this story. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of news articles on incredibly inspiring disabled persons.
Kanya Sesser, 23, skateboards, models lingerie and surfs – and she does it all without lower limbs. Sesser, who was born without legs, was adopted from an orphanage in Thailand before moving to Portland, Oregon, with her new family. Now, she earns more than $1,000 a day working as a model. "I enjoy making money from it and I love showing people what beauty can look like," Sesser told the Daily News. "These images show my strength." The 23-year-old, who uses a skateboard instead of a wheelchair, began modeling for sports brands when she was 15. The Huffington Post UK reports that the Los Angeles-based model has reportedly posed for brands like Billabong, Rip Curl Girl and Nike. "I was mainly doing athletics shoots then as I got older I got into lingerie modeling," Sesser told the Daily News. "It's something fun and it shows my story – I'm different and that is sexy, I don't need legs to feel sexy." Now, the model hopes to compete in the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as a mono-skier.
Note: Don't miss this inspiring seven-minute video of Kanya's courage and fascinating life.
Last Friday, 6-year-old Landon Johnson went to the RiverTown Crossings Mall in Grandville with his family. While there, the boy and his cousins took turns chatting with Santa. After telling the man in red he wanted a Wii, a toy dinosaur and a remote control car, Landon hopped off Santa’s lap to rejoin his family. But a few moments later, he raced back to Santa’s side: he’d forgotten to tell him something important. “He wanted to tell [Santa] that he has autism,” Landon’s mom, Naomi Johnson, said in a moving Facebook post about the encounter this week. Specifically, Landon shared his worry with Santa that his autism would land him on the “naughty list.” His mom explained ... that Landon is often told he’s “naughty” by people who mistake his autism [for] bad behavior. He’s been told by other people before, "You don’t need to be so naughty," or, "Why are you naughty?" Santa took the time to listen to Landon's worries, and held the boy's hands soothingly all the while. “Santa sat him next to him and took L's hands in his and started rubbing them, calming them down. Santa asked L if it bothered him, having Autism? L said yes, sometimes. Then Santa told him it shouldn't. It shouldn't bother him to be who he is,” Johnson wrote. Landon told Santa that he sometimes “gets in trouble at school and it's hard for people to understand that he has autism,” but that he's “not a naughty boy.” “You know I love you and the reindeer love you and it’s OK. You’re a good boy,” Santa told WOOD-TV.
John Bramblitt of Denton, Texas, lost his vision 13 years ago due to complications with epilepsy and plunged into a deep depression, feeling disconnected from the world around him. He found a new way to express his experience of the world around him in painting however. Bramblitt learned to distinguish between different coloured paints by feeling their textures with his fingers, taught himself how to paint using raised lines and harnessed haptic visualization, enabling him to "see" his subjects through touch. While many of his portraits are taken from events in his life he experienced while sighted, he has also produced life-like paintings of people he's never actually seen, including his wife and son. Art was always a big part of his life but took on a new importance following his blindness. "Art reshaped my life," he said. Whilst continuing to create new works, Bramblitt teaches art workshops focusing on adaptive techniques for young artists with disabilities, for which he has received three Presidential Service Awards. You can buy originals and prints of John's work here.
Note: Don't miss the incredibly inspiring one-minute video of this inspiring blind artist.
Before my freshman year of high school started ... my friend's car hit a guardrail with me inside. The railing amputated my leg instantly. Several years ago, more of my leg had to be amputated. Not only did this make it harder to wear a prosthetic, but it became a lot more expensive. In February of 2013, my life was forever changed when I attended the Executive Assistant Organization's Behind Every Leader event. During the conference, a sweet lady by the name of Alisson Frew dared to ask me why I did not wear a prosthetic. My short and simple answer was, "I don't have sixty thousand dollars. Do you?" The next morning I was in tears as I learned that Alisson had talked with Jeff Hoffman, founder of Priceline and mentor to GiveForward.com, along with a dozen other people, in order to help me get a prosthetic. From the first step, it was apparent to me just how much this would mean. A few days after I received the leg, I wrapped my son in my arms and experienced our first of many dances. This seemingly simple moment is forever ingrained into my heart. For the first time in my life, I was not only confident but I was empowered! I yearned to help those around me. In ... 2014, I started modelling. My dream is that one day a little girl will see me on a poster at her favorite clothing store and say, "Wow, she is beautiful, and she only has one leg. I could do that too someday, even though I have a disability." My dream is simple: to inspire every man, woman, and child into knowing and believing that they are beautiful just the way they are.
Note: Watch Marina's inspiring thank-you video to Behind Every Leader.
Tim Harris was born with Down syndrome and his father, Keith, admits that acceptance didn't come easily at first. But over the years, Keith's attitude shifted. "Tim is the second of four boys, and when he was growing up, we saw the challenges that his disability presented socially,” Keith [said]. “We started to ponder when he was young about his future and made the choice that we wanted to create a life for him that was as close to typical as possible.” Thanks to his parents' faith and support, Harris has not only accomplished the typical, but he's also made the world a little bit more extraordinary. Today, Harris is the proud owner of Tim's Place, a successful -- and unique -- restaurant in Albuquerque, N.M. Other than selling regular New Mexican fare, Tim's Place has a trademark special. It's called the Tim Hug -— a "calorie-free" and "guilt-free" treat that, according to the menu description, guarantees to "improve your lease on life." "I love giving all the customers a hug because I want them to feel comfortable and connected and being around friends,” Harris told Albuquerque The Magazine. Tim's Place, which calls itself the "world's friendliest restaurant" opened its doors in 2010 and since then, Tim has given out more than 19,000 hugs. He keeps track using a Hug Counter. Only 26, Harris -- a college graduate -- is also an accomplished Special Olympian, an excellent sailor and an experienced offshore fisherman. In high school, Harris was also elected homecoming king and Student Of The Year.
Note: Don't miss the awesome three-minute video of Tim and his restaurant! Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Think of it sort as an updated take on "Hoop Dreams," except that its basketball-playing dreamers use wheelchairs. And they live in Afghanistan, not the Windy City. Jess Markt, originally from the Portland, Ore. area, is ... at the center of "The League of Afghanistan," a new documentary film currently in development. In 2009, Markt, whose spinal cord was injured in a car accident at the age of 19 and [who] relies on a wheelchair to get around, traveled to northwest Afghanistan to coach a wheelchair basketball team hoping to create a nationwide league. When Aaron Cooley, a Los Angeles-based producer with Joel Schumacher's production company, caught wind of Markt's experience, he saw the seeds of a great film. Today, the documentary, which aims to tell the story of Markt's efforts to bring basketball to disabled men and women [throughout Afghanistan], is in its early stages of filming. From Jess' perspective, he is the outsider American who comes into a legitimately ... hostile situation. For the local players, we're looking at how the introduction of this game can help rebuild the hope and the purpose that is in their own lives, which were shattered by their own injuries.
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