James Bohnett
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James Bohnett

James Bohnett

My name is James and I love sports. I want a handcycle because it would get me off of the T.V. A handcycle would make me a better person because it would make me stronger and happier. I would really like one because I want to ride with my family and I would be faster in my racing wheelchair.

James Bohnett
August 10, 2005

Dear Ms. Gotfredson,

It is my pleasure to introduce my son, James Tamirat Bohnett, for grant consideration. He is a committed athlete, an excellent student, and I believe an all-around outstanding young man.

James was born on October 10, 1994 in Nazereth, Ethiopia. While the exact circumstances are unknown to us, we know that he was born without feet due to amniotic band syndrome (natural bi-lateral below the knee amputation) and abandoned at birth. Someone that day named him Tamirat, which in his native Amharic means: Miracle Child. To make a long and wonderful story short, he was placed with us two days before Christmas of that year and we traveled to Africa a few months later to bring him home.

At seven months of age, James arrived back in the United States, suffering from a severe parasitic infection and without the strength or motor skills to roll-over or crawl. A quick eight months later, he was walking on prosthetic feet and smiling at every step. As his disability involves natural amputations, he is prone to the same difficulties and complications as all other young amputees. Among other issues, he has required occasional surgeries to combat tibial and fibial overgrowth that make walking painful at best. For a variety of reason, James does use a wheelchair semi-regularly for every day activities and has been an athlete in wheelchair sports for several years.

James has been a member of San Jose's Wheels On Fire wheelchair basketball team and a yearly participant of the Northern California Junior (wheelchair) Sports Camp since he was five years old. He competed nationally last year in wheelchair racing, archery and discus, placing first in his division for archery in the United States. Also last year, James raced his racing chair against able bodied kids as the first disabled athlete invited to compete at a Hersey's Track and Field regional qualifying event. This year, James did qualify for nationals again in archery and javeline, but missed by a split second in his favorite event, track in his racing chair.

James gained a close friend this year in Cheri Blauwett, a champion athlete that you are likely familiar with. She is a gold medal winning Para-Olympian and two time Boston Marathon winner and a fantastic coach as well. She worked with James for several weeks this year preparing him for the regional games and has pledged to coordinate his training through the year and work with him directly once again to see him compete at nationals next year in Boston. While at age ten it may be difficult to fully understand such a commitment, James has expressed the goal of following Cheri's example and competing one day in a racing chair at the Para Olympics.

I should share that James has a limited ability to ride a standard bicycle and does love to ride. This is a difficult activity for him however both due to fit issues (standover height, no toe down ability, and knees up into chest due to low seat) and because his prosthetics interfere with repeated deep knee bends. After repeated failing attempts to work around these problems, we donated his bike to a foster child who could make better use of it. While he is borrowing a racing chair to train in, it is somewhat limited to activities on a running track and requires a degree of preparation that makes scheduling training a challenge. It is our hope a handcycle will be used regularly as a training and fitness tool and will allow our family of four to cycle together on evenings and weekends. Judging by his interest in racing, I would fully expect that he will take an interest in racing a handcycle as well.

Athletic endeavors have been huge influences in James' life to date. He is as comfortable socially in his chair as he is on his feet; I credit this largely on his recognition as a wheelchair athlete.

I would like to thank you for allowing me to introduce my son James and for consideration as a recipient for an Athletes Helping Athletes grant. The disabled athletes in our lives, and the people committed to facilitate their growth as competitors and people, have touched us and taught us so much about what is important in life. We are interested in including AHA in our charitable giving activities and will certainly help spread the word about your very worthy program.

Loren J. Bohnett

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