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Boilermaker Wheelchair participants honored at annual reception

By ALLISON NORLIAN

NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (WKTV) - Twenty-five wheelchair participants along with athletes from previous years were honored tonight at Sitrin Medical Rehabilitation center during a Boilermaker "kick off" that included guest speakers, food and beverages.

The nights speakers ranged from volunteers to participants, including Jason Robinson, one of the three individuals highlighted.

Gary Roback, the co-coordinator of The Wheelchair Division said that these individuals inspire him, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself..if you put your mind to something...you can achieve anything you want... theres no such thing as a disability ."

Lay Aung, this years wheelchair challenger was also shown off tonight. He is Burma born, but lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for fifteen years. Aung moved to Utica in 2010. At the age of two, Aung lost his ability to walk. When he came to the United States, he was diagnosed for the first time with polio. If he is able to complete the 15k in a standard wheelchair in less than 2 hours and 15 minutes he will be awarded a custom fitted racing wheelchair. This will be the 25th custom wheelchair given away.

Besides Aung, two wheelchair participants honored tonight included Alli Morgan, an above the knee amputee who will be running for the first time in eight years and Jason Robinson, the youngest participant in the Boilermaker wheelchair division.

Robinson said it has been his dream to participate in the Boilermaker since he was four years old, " Its because its been a dream of mine since i was 4... And i was watching the race and I see these wheelchairs go by and I'm like mom what are those and she goes they are racing wheelchairs and I go thats so cool!"

He only got involved after The Westmoreland School District donated to him, a custom-fit racing wheelchair.

Robinson said, " I was first going to do the 5k and they said he was going to run over someone ...he's going to fly down that last hill and he's going to hit someone so they said the other option is you can do the 15k."

He will be racing in the 15k alongside one of his idols, 9th annual runner Hermin Garic. Garic said his favorite part of the Boilermaker this past nine years has been the party and the competition to place at the top of the race, "Its showing people what you are able to do and not what you cant, or what people think you cant do," he also said he will continue to race in years to come, "Oh yeah I plan on pushing my racing chair and any other chair until my arms can't handle it anymore."

Both individuals had special messages to send to not only the disabled, but to anyone who doubts themselves. Robinson's message was, "If you don't think you can do it ... go find something and go out there and try new things each day and do different things live your life and don't just sit at home and say I cant do anything I have a disability."

The wheelchair competition begins at 7:45 a.m on Sunday July, 14th.

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