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Paradox: Disabled, Empowered and Inspired

Posted on January 22 2011

If you’ve never known an outdoors athlete who’s been challenged by a disability, it’s hard to imagine that someone confined to a wheelchair might want to push the limits just like anyone else. Army Captain DJ Skelton and professional climber Timmy O’Neill, — who travels the world as a climber, entertainer and ambassador for Patagonia — founded Paradox Sports in order to help wounded vets, climbers who lost limbs, people with congenital amputations and paraplegics “live life on their own terms.” (Timmy is also heavily involved in the Rios Libres project to protect Argentinian rivers.)

Typical of the adventures organized by Paradox: a ground-breaking trip to fish the Ongivinuk River in Alaska to its confluence with the Togiak River. It was an extra challenge for a group that included two paraplegics, two amputees, and one person who is legally blind.

Over Christmas a friend and long-time fly fishing client of mine, John Merritt, participated in an interview with the folks at the Dirtbag Diaries, who wanted to laud the efforts of Paradox and Mark Rutherford, an exploratory fishing guide who works with the group. I fished with John in Key West for almost a decade, but it wasn’t until this year that I found out he was involved in Paradox Sports. John, who is now confined to a wheelchair and has difficulty speaking many years of struggling with MS (more than a decade ago he was told he had seven years to live) is the subject of Rutherford’s storytelling.

Turns out that John, who had once made several pioneering first descents of Alaskan rivers, chose to provide the funding for Paradox to continue taking disabled anglers into the wild. Even after he could no longer fish. Listen to the complete podcast here.

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