Paralympic champion, Ray Martin is teaming up with BP stations in New York and New Jersey to raise money for Paralympic sports clubs, including Mountainside’s Children's Lightning Wheels Club and his own club, North Jersey Navigators.
Martin, 18, won four gold medals at the 2012 London Paralympics. It was his first time competing in the games and he took home the gold in every one of his races, 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. He also achieved the world record in his 200m race.
A Jersey City native, Martin trained at the North Jersey Navigators Paralympic club in Bayonne, which he said is similar to the Lightning Wheels Club in Mountainside. By partnering up with BP, Martin is hoping to raise money for both clubs, which he says rely on a limited number of resources.
“I can see they have a great program and I am really glad some of the funds will help support the Lightning Wheels,” Martin said. “I am confident the funds going to the Lightning Wheels will help a great program.”
The Children’s Lightning Wheels club is sponsored by Children’s Specialized Hospital; it is an athletic competition program open to the disabled ages 5 to 22.
Trisha Yurochko, the Community Benefits Coordinator and head coach at Children's Lightning Wheels told Patch that the club intends to use the funds raised to get the word out about the program and introduce an adult team.
“One idea is to develop new teams, especially an adult team, so that the athletes from our programs can continue to participate on a team when they graduate from our programs,” she said “We also know there are many adults out there that just need that 'extra push or incentive' to get involved in sports.”
Yurochko added that the Lightning Wheels Club had three athletes compete in the 2012 London Paralympics, one of which was a four-time paralympian, Jessica Galli, who holds the world record in the T53 400 m race.
According to Martin, BP, as a partner of TEAM USA, donated more than $300,000 to Paralympic clubs in 2012. BP presented $240,000 of those funds to four clubs in New York and New Jersey. Martin added that 80 percent of those donations were achieved by NY and NJ BP station owners.
“There are more than 21 million Americans with physical and visual disabilities and it’s important for them to know the opportunities they have with Paralympic Sport Clubs and so everyone understands the benefits they provide and why they should help BP donate to them,” he said.
Now until Feb. 28, BP stations in New York City, Long Island and northern and central New Jersey are selling window clings for one dollar to raise money for Paralympic clubs. All money raised by NJ stations will be donated to the Children’s Lightning Wheels Club and North Jersey Navigators.
“When they (BP) approached me with an opportunity to help give back to the Paralympic Sport Clubs that helped mold me into the athlete and person I am today, I was extremely excited to help out,” Martin said.
From birth, Marin had Arthrogryposis, a congenital disorder that affects his musculoskeletal system. This disease causes his joints to be hooked, which doesn’t allow him to stretch his legs all the way making it difficult to walk.
“I’ve always been an active person. Telling others to get active has always been an important message I sent out to people,” he added. “Even if you’re not going to make the Olympics or Paralympics, it’s important just to be active and live a healthy lifestyle.”
Martin’s thoughts on being active are what he says led him to sports.
Being at the 2012 London Paralympic Games is an experience Martin said he will never forget.
“Being at the Games was just a humbling experience. Not every athlete that aspires to go to the Games can get there, and I remind myself every day that the London Games could easily be my last,” he said. “I appreciated every minute I was in London and soaked in the entire elite athlete experience.”
As he moves forward, Martin hopes to achieve the world record in more races than just the 200m. He plans to continue his Paralympic career, but the understands the next games are three years away in Rio.
Until then, outside of sports, Martin is focusing on his studies.
He is currently a freshman at the University of Illinois — Urbana-Champaign, where he is studying Kinesiology in hopes of becoming an occupational therapist to show others that nothing is impossible.
On Jan. 19 from 11:30a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Lightning Wheels Club and North Jersey Navigators will hold an event at Kean University to introduce Paralympic Sports to those with disabilities. Also at the event, they will discuss the BP initiative to assist the clubs. Activities such as swimming, track, field, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, rowing and more will take place at the event. See the flier in PDFs for more information.