This last month has been incredible. So much has happened. In October, I was honored by the Challenged Athlete’s Foundation as their 2013 Most Inspirational Athlete. I received travel grants from CAF in the past but did not have direct interaction with them until this past October. The best part of the trip was that Lisa and Leroy were able to join me. We were all flown out to San Diego, California for the awards ceremony. The next day, CAF held their 20th annual triathlon for athletes with disabilities. So amazing to see what people can do with the right support and equipment. Lisa, Leroy and I were so inspired that we signed up to compete as a relay team for next year’s triathlon. The only problem is that we can’t decide who is going to do the swimming portion of it. Leroy is going to do the hand cycle. Lisa and I are fighting over who will run. She’s a better runner, but I keep telling her that black people don’t swim – they just sink. At least I do!
Another great thing about going to San Diego is that I got to meet a half-brother of mine for the first time. His name is Desean, and he is eight months older than I am. We have the same father, but I just learned about DeSean last summer. While I was in San Diego, I was able to meet his side of the family and catch up on things. It was awesome. For Thanksgiving this year, we are flying to Cleveland together so that he can meet our dad and my side of the family for the first time. I haven’t told my dad, so he’ll be crazy surprised, just like I was when Leroy showed up in London. Wish ESPN were there to film that reaction!
During the past few weeks I have been limited in judo due to my shoulder being hurt. High school powerlifting and judo have worn down the AC joint a bit. There aren’t many options to fixing it, outside of surgery. And I wasn’t excited to have another surgery, so I received a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection. PRP stimulates your body’s own healing response; hopefully it works! I had it done in Boston in mid-November, which gave me a pretty good excuse to go see Lisa and her family for a weekend.
I’ve been on an incredible journey with Lisa and Leroy, and it’s far from over. Again, I want to express my thanks to all of you for your support and love. You continue to change my life.
Dartanyon wins Challenged Athlete’s Foundation 2013 Most Inspiration Athlete
Look out world! I started driving lessons. My aunt started teaching me when I sixteen, using a prosthetic. But I didn’t get very far and never got a license. Now I have an actual learner’s permit and am taking classes with an occupational therapist. Instead of using prosthetics, I am learning to drive with hand controls this time. I was a little leery of it, because it’s so different controlling the gas and brakes with levers. But now I am having a lot of fun with it. I feel like I am good at watching the road and making decisions, so the hardest part is mastering the hand controls. There is a slight delay that you don’t have when you use your foot.
Once I finish driving, I will be able to look for a job and move. Most likely to California. I have been working on my portfolio with an artist mentor from a gaming company in San Francisco. I had a portfolio, but it isn’t that great for what I want to do. I had a ton of samples for environmental work, but not enough to interview for character design jobs. Just didn’t get enough coursework in it at college. But I can make a heck of a rock! My art mentor has been teaching me to model from reference, so starting with sketches, perfecting those and then turning them into 3-D models. I used the process for environmental modeling, but with characters, my creativity takes hold of me and I deviate from the sketch. Getting better though.
In spirit of Thanksgiving, I will say that I am thankful for all the love I have been receiving from you in the last 3-4 years. This is not something I’ve known for most of my life, and I am very grateful to all the people I now call family. And that’s the peace.
In addition to the rules of the road, driving school taught Leroy that he needed glasses!
Lately the world has felt like a marble, glistening beautifully in the sun. At least that’s how it felt last month at my graduation from Collins Collins.
DONE!!!!!! That is all I said for hours. I was just so happy to graduate. I had some hardships, some troubles, met some cool people and made bonds. School was difficult because of the deficient high school I attended in Cleveland. But overall it was a good experience and I made it to the other side. I was the first person in my family to finish high school, and now the first to have a college diploma.
The best part was my graduation party that afternoon. I got to sit in a room full of people who have nothing but love for me. My success meant they succeeded. Blood family alongside people I have grown to consider my family. People who have given me support over these last four years that I had never known before. This world can be cruel, harsh, and depressing, but the people that spent my graduation day with me, I know I can call any time and they would move mountains to make my smile come back.
I made a speech that made others cry… Ok… I cried to… My family, genetic and non-genetic shared a moment of pride in me. I was proud and for the first time ever I felt like the world was my oyster.
August was a month off from judo training, and my vacation was incredible. First I went to visit Lisa and her family in Boston, Massachusetts. My ankle surgery was the week before, so I was in a boot most of the time. But it was still a blast being around her and her… I mean, OUR family. There was never a dull moment, each day was a new activity and challenge. The toughest was getting Tally, Lisa’s two-year-old daughter to love me. I made her a play dough rose and in the end I proved to be awesome and she was putty in my lap. I was also in charge of carrying her three-year-old son, Saxon, out of the room any time he had a tantrum. By the end of the visit, he said, “I listen to mama so Dartanyon doesn’t get me.” That’s right Saxon!
I also learned a valuable lesson from her husband, Navid: Vitamix is the best blender ever made! Loved all of the smoothies.
The next stop was Tempe, Arizona, where I had the privilege to watch…I mean experience, Leroy’s graduation. I couldn’t be more proud of him. It was a long four years, but he pulled through like the champion he is. Hanging out with Leroy, no matter how long it has been, is as if time stood still and nothing has changed. It is one of the best feelings I’ve ever known for one of the best friends I’ll ever have.
Finally I went to Cleveland to see family and old friends for a few days. Now I am back in Colorado Springs getting back into the swing of things. I have started school, and training has picked up with intensity. I love it.
I also love the fact that Charlotte, Lisa’s 10-year-old niece, had to an assignment her first week of school to write about who her heroes are. And she wrote about me, Leroy and Lisa. For me this is a huge honor to be viewed as a hero to anyone. So thank you Charlotte you made my week! Read Charlotte’s assignment below:
Your love and support over this last month has overwhelmed in the best possible way. Your grace cannot be understated. Propelled by your encouragement, Leroy, Dartanyon and Lisa were guests on three radio programs in July, sharing more details of their journeys together. They were also featured in Richard Deitsch’s recent Sports Illustrated column. You can listen to the podcasts and read Deitsch’s article using the links below.
Vince Rachal Radio Show
Yahoo! Sports Radio
Leroy & Dartanyon
The Drive with Jack Ebling
AM 730 The Game
Sorry, audio no longer available.