When you are paralyzed from the waist down and suffer from some impairment to all four limbs, there is little a quadriplegic fears. The Western New York Wreckers are a quad rugby team who represent Rochester and Buffalo.
"If you find your way of challenging yourself and staying active and being driven, you can stay active and healthy," WNY Wreckers co-founder Chris Hilderbrant said. "I don't think a disability is an excuse in that regard but I think you have to find your thing."
Chris found his thing, when he co-founded Wester New York's quad rugby team, in a sport combining basketball, football and rugby affectionately known as "murderball" by those who play it.
"Like a lot of competitive sports, you get in, you're challenging yourself, you are competing with others," Hilderbrant said. "It really drives you to take better care of yourself to be more athletic, to eat better, to exercise more and to take better care of your heart."
Chris became a quadriplegic at age 14 while diving on his school swim team.
"I was conscious the whole time," Hilderbrant said. "I remember floating to the top and my friend Jonathon kind of keeping me upright so I didn't take in water or drown there."
Chris's disability has never deterred him, it's actually driven him.
"I was in okay shape," Hilderbrant said. "Now I'm in okay-plus shape maybe. I didn't really have anything that motivated me and now rugby motivates me. I want to be faster than those guys."
Chris is not the only co-founder of the team, he's the "Wreckers" biggest cheerleader. He encouraged Michael Bliss of Greece to join the team.
"I've always been an athletic person so this kind of fills the void a little bit," Bliss said.
Six years ago, Michael was severely beaten and left paralyzed from the waist down by two college students near the University at Buffalo.
"I try not to think about that anymore, I've moved on," Bliss said. "It was a rough two years trying to recuperate and get better physically and then this is just another way to move forward and deal with what I have."
Like Chris, Michael has learned to persevere.
"It's really allowed me to grow up and try to be a better person," Bliss said. "Even thought I can't do what I used to be able to do physically, it grounds you and humbles you. It really allows you to put yourself in the shoes of people and try not to judge."
A winning attitude makes anything possible.
The team is holding a fundraiser to try to buy better wheelchairs that will make them more competitive. For more information on the WNY Wreckers and if you would like to help by donating click here.
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