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A can-do approach to life
DETERMINED – Josh Kennison was born with truncated arms and legs. It doesn't stop him from competing in field and track. He is on a mission to qualify for the 2012 Paralympics in London. He is holding one of his new prosthetic legs.
SOUTH PARIS – Josh Kennison is one amazing young man.
Despite being born with truncated limbs, he has maintained an active life, even competing in soccer and track and field throughout his high-school years at Oxford Hills.
Making things even harder, Josh was born with no tongue or jaw making it tough to communicate as a young child. But determined for Josh to be like other kids his age, his mom mainstreamed him early in elementary school.
“That was a great help,” said Josh. “I had a lot of friends. They were always very supportive. Sometimes people would stare, but mostly people cheered me on when I played soccer or ran in track.”
As Josh turned into an adult, he continued in his track and field, becoming an accomplished paralympian, traveling all over the country to compete.
“In 2010, I went to my first national meet in Oklahoma City,” he smiled. “I took two gold medals and one silver, competing in the 100- and 200-meter dash events.”
Josh’s goal: to compete in the 2012 Paralympics in London.
“I have to qualify first,” he explained. “There are two ways to qualify. There is A and B qualifying. If I have certain times then you can make A and you are in, and if not they take the next fastest times to fill in what slots are left.”
“I don’t want to qualify in B and have to hope to get in,” he added.
And he got a little help from Hanger Prosthetics in Lewiston.
“I have been blessed with new legs and they’re great,” he exclaimed. “And now I work with a new training regimen and I have a better outlook on competing.”
He has also gained a mentor in Don Winckler, an outreach coordinator at the Moss Brook Community Church.
“Through Don, I have learned new skills,” smiled Josh. “Not only in my running but in life skills ... financially using a checkbook and how to talk to people.”
“He is my definition of a hero,” said Winckler. “With no hands he texts and plays basketball; with no feet, he drives a car with normal pedals. And now he has become a mentor himself, speaking to assemblies and clubs.”
Josh told Don of his dream to compete in the Paralympics.
“He said I could do it!” said Josh. “The sky is touchable with the right mindset.”
“Mentoring Josh is easy,” said Winckler. “Suddenly he had self-worth. Most people don’t know what they are good at and focus on what they can’t do. And Josh has now matured and it’s given him wisdom and faith.”
This young man also has quite a sense of humor.
“I call my new legs, my cheater legs,” he laughed. “And my license plate says NUBZ. I don’t want a pity party!”
Making it to the Paralympics is quite expensive, as is training and competing at the national level.
“I’ve had great sponsors in Amway, Norway Savings as well as families within the community,” said Josh. “And I also defray some of the costs by coaching soccer and public speaking.”
Winckler is very proud of Josh.
“As you can see,” said Winckler, “he is one of the few who don’t want to be in the system; by driving, by living his life, he is an inspiration without even speaking.”
Josh also wants to help others and is in the process of looking into establishing a non-profit foundation in the future to help provide outreach to other disadvantaged youth, but for the next few years this brave, young man will need to work on his personal goals to achieve his dream in competing at the Paralymics.
“I need to run,” said Josh. “It gives me strength and a better outlook on life. But I don’t just run for me; I run to prove to people that no matter what you are given in life, you can do it, if you set your mind to it.”
Those who wish to donate are encouraged to contact Winckler at 615-6617. Contributions can also be mailed to You Can Do It Team, 231 Maine Street, Box 184, Norway, 04268.