Stimson Students Riveted by Paralympians

Tony Fitzgerald, left and Kevin Eriksen, standing with basketball, start two students off on a wheelchair race.
Tony Fitzgerald, left and Kevin Eriksen, standing with basketball, start two students off on a wheelchair race.

Students at Stimson Middle School spent time with two Paralympians recently and from the way the students sat quietly and paid attention, you could tell the message was sinking in. 

Tony Fitzgerald and Kevin Eriksen talked with the students about their experiences and about the importance of a positive attitude. “A positive attitude can tackle 99% of your problems,” said Tony. “Attitude is everything, and we believe in leading by example even though we have tough obstacles to overcome.” Both wheelchair athletes encouraged the students to treat their bodies right by eating healthy food, getting plenty of exercise, always using their seatbelts, and wearing helmets. “Having a disability shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want to do, whether it be in athletics or academia,” said Kevin. “You can do anything you set your mind to.” In addition to basketball, Kevin plays tennis, softball, and hockey from his wheelchair.

The Stimson students each got to take a wheelchair for a spin as Tony and Kevin spoke with them about focusing on what they have rather than on what they don’t have. “The wheelchair basketball captures the students’ attention, and that helps them hear the message,” said Patti Nardelli, Silas/Stimson PTA cultural arts chairperson. “As motivational speakers, these guys do a fantastic job. When your children come home and tell you what they learned from their presentation—be thankful for your family, be thankful for your life, and be thankful you live in this country—you know they are getting the right message.” 

Both Tony and Kevin are extremely active in their communities and encourage others to be involved as well. They are part of the Nassau Kings Wheelchair Basketball League as well as the Nassau Aviators Wheelchair Softball League, where Tony is the founding member. “People with disabilities are just like anybody else,” said Tony. “We all need to look out for each other.” This unique and heartwarming program was presented to our middle-school students by the South Huntington PTA Cultural Arts Committee.