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Former Competitive Skier Gives Inspiring Presentation At Katonah Elementary

Chris Waddell, a former competitive skier at Middlebury College who is now paralyzed from the waist down from an accident on the slopes, presents to Katonah Elementary School. Photo Credit: Contributed
Waddell provided inspiration to the students. Photo Credit: Contributed
The students listen intensely to the presentation. Photo Credit: Contributed

BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Chris Waddell, a former competitive skier at Middlebury College who is now paralyzed from the waist down due to a skiing accident, gave an inspiring presentation at Katonah Elementary School and brought the school’s word of the month – “resilience” to life.

Waddell was a competitive skier at Middlebury College when an accident on the slopes left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Decades later, Waddell has done the impossible. In addition to winning 12 Paralympic medals during four Paralympic Games, he became the first paraplegic to reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro unassisted in 2009.

He encouraged students to think about the “name tags” they wear – “student,” “athlete,” etc. – and repeated his mantra, “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.”

“Sometimes,” said Waddell, “these name tags come with limitations.”

Despite being labeled a paraplegic, Waddell was recognized by the Dalai Lama and numerous publications, and even was named one of People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful” in 1998, a decade after his accident. He continues traveling around the world as a motivational speaker.

Waddell gave each student a card to thoughtfully fill out with their own name tags and expectations for themselves each day. “It’s not what happens to you,” students echoed at the end of Waddell’s presentation. “It’s what you do with what happens to you.”

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