After one race, Tyler Thompson was hooked.
In the last year, Thompson, 25, has participated in about a dozen wheelchair races, but he was at a disadvantage. He needed a special racing wheelchair instead of his every day one.
But the special chairs costs about $3,000.
Thompson started a fundraising page on the site, gofundme.com, to raise money for the chair. In about six months, he’d raised only $50.
He decided to enter a contest on YouTube to see if he could raise the money. But then a running friend he met, Pam Burrus of Newnan, told him he’d probably never win the contest. She urged him to promote the gofundme site to raise the money.
And she helped.
She and Thompson posted his story with a link to the site on several racing websites, including the Chick-fil-A races and other races in the region.
In less than 24 hours, his wheelchair was fully funded. It’s under construction now and will likely be delivered this week.
Thompson participated in last year’s Chick-fil-A 5K on a whim, but fell in love with wheelchair racing almost immediately. Born with spina bifida, he can walk with braces and has always been competitive. He participated in wheelchair sports when he was in school and played baseball until he was 10, coached by his dad, Alan. His brother plays baseball in college.
After high school, however, he’d aged out of the wheelchair sports league and was looking for something else to do when he found racing.
Now he’s done about a dozen races in the region, including Chattanooga and another Chick-fil-A race in Atlanta. He even has his own shirt he wears to the races. It says “that’s how I roll.”
“Sports run in my family,” he said. “To find out I’m still able to compete means a lot.”
His wheelchair racing Facebook page, thatshowIroll22, has more than 200 likes.
Eventually, he’d like to pay forward everything that’s been done to help him.
“I’d like to start my own non-profit organization helping people get chairs and equipment for adaptive sports,” he said.
He knows he’ll never be able to repay everyone who donated to the effort to get his racing wheelchair.
“Ninety-five percent of those people don’t even know me,” he said. “I’m going to make a YouTube video to thank everyone.”
This spring, at LaGrange’s second Chick-fil-A race, his new chair will be making its debut where Thompson started wheelchair racing.
“There are three levels of spina bifida, and I have the best case of the worst level,” he said. “I don’t let it get in my way. It’s not been easy, but I’ll find a way to cross the finish line somehow.”