Jacob Van Hemelryck
Dear Athletes Helping Athletes,
Hi! My name is Jacob Van Hemelryck, I'm 12 years old and have Spina Bifida. I am going into the seventh grade at Eagle Middle School, Idaho. One reason I would love to have a handcycle is because I want to train for triathlons. Another major reason I would love to have a new cycle is because I would like to keep up with my friends when we go on bike rides.
I have also competed in the National Junior Wheelchair Championships since I was six years old, and a new bike would be great for cross training.
I have gotten to know Mike Utley, who played for the Detroit Lions. He wanted to know when I would enter his Dam2Dam bike race along the Columbia River. Getting a new handcycle would allow me to enter that race.
Jacob Van Hemelryck
My Son is Jacob Van Hemelryck. He was born May 21, 1992 with Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus. Initially, my wife and I were told by doctors that Jacob had a 50/50 chance of survival, and if he did survive, he might never be able to sit up or even know who we were. Twelve years later and after 18 major surgeries, Jacob now holds three national records in track and swimming and receives A's and B's in school.
Jacob has become an advocate for all children to participate in all types of athletic and outdoor activities. While living in Grand Canyon, Arizona, Jacob was the only child in the community using a wheelchair. He didn't let that stop him from playing organized baseball and basketball with his classmates. He took that even farther when he decided to compete in wheelchair track and field. In his first year of road racing he was, most often, the only wheelchair entrant in races around the Southwest. Year after year he would return to those races, and slowly, there would be one, two, or more wheelchair entries.
Jacob participated in his first Junior National Wheelchair Track & Field Championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico the summer of 1999. He has qualified every year since then and brings home piles of trophies, plaques, and medals. But more importantly, he brings home smiles and memories. It's not often Jacob is able to be surrounded by so many of his peers, and the positive influence that the older kids have had on him is becoming more evident as Jacob is now encouraging the younger athletes.
In August of 2001, we moved to Eagle, Idaho. Once again Jacob found himself the only child in the area who participated in wheelchair track and field. Day after day he would train with my wife or me at the local high school track or on the road. When he entered the sixth grade at Eagle Middle School, he joined the intramural tennis team and was the first wheelchair athlete to be on the school's track and field team.
In January of 2002, Jacob joined the Recreation Unlimited Disabled Ski Program. He found many kids in the area who would ski, but could not get any of them to try track & field, basketball, tennis or any other of the sports he enjoys. Yet, he continually encourages them to try.
In October 2003, Jacob wanted to join the Boise YMCA swim team, even though he could barely swim. Nine months later he found himself setting two National records in the 25 and 50 yard butterfly at the National Junior Disabled Sports Championships in Mesa, Arizona.
Jacob is also an avid hunter and fisherman. He dearly loves athletics and outdoors, as is apparent with his numerous achievements. I know that he will accomplish the same with hand cycling. His enthusiasm for athletics is unmatched in anyone I know. Please help Jacob to become the best athlete and person he can be.
Mike Van Hemelryck