WEBSTER, N.Y. (WROC) — July is Disability Pride Month and Tuesday was the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A topic very near and dear to the heart of Mike Fitzsimmons, a Webster man dedicating his life to advocating for those with disabilities, including himself.
Mike Fitzsimmons was born on January 26, 1986. While a day like that is meant to be joyous, that wasn’t the case for this family. Fitzsimmons was born with Spina Bifida, a condition where the spine doesn’t fuse completely.
“My folks were told, ‘if Mike lives, he’s going to be severely disabled and have no quality of life,’” Fitzsimmons said.
Before even his very first day of life, Fitzsimmons was told what he can’t do because of his condition. Now, at 36 years old, he is on his way to possibly making history.
“You’re always told what you can’t do with Spina Bifida. So, I figured I wanted to show what I can do and just one afternoon kind of decided to start running,” Fitzsimmons said. “I started running a mile every day and met a few friends who run ultra-marathons, figured I probably shouldn’t be able to do that, so let’s see if I can. I decided to do that and may or may not be the first person with Spina Bifida to be able to do that.”
An “Ultra” is classified as any race with a distance longer than 26.2 miles, a feat Fitzsimmons has already accomplished
“It’s just sharing that message about Spina Bifida with runners. You don’t see overlap between something like Spina Bifida and running, especially in the ultra-community,” Fitzsimmons said.
Being a part of the disabled community, Fitzsimmons knows how important it is to spread awareness and raise funds, something he incorporates into every race.
“I’ve been working with Bella’s Bumbas, a charity here in Webster, they build chairs for kids that have mobility issues,” Fitzsimmons said. “I actually flew to the UK from my guide daughter and delivered a chair to her and her family. And it was amazing the smile on her face. I think the old-school way of thinking about that, folks are confined to a wheelchair. And none of these kids are confined. This is their freedom. This is how they know to get around right now.”
Fitzsimmons wants to inspire those who have ever been told they can’t do something, and he does so with his 1000+ Instagram followers.
“I’m not the face of Spina Bifida or the face of disability. I’m one of millions of faces out there,” Fitzsimmons said. If you want to stay up to date on Mike’s journey, you can do so by following him on Instagram.