A 16-year-old Durango teennager, confined to a wheelchair as the result of an automobile accident in 2009, received a $10,000 grant to develop a project to bring more Native Americans with disabilities into sports.
Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss is one of 10 young Native Americans to receive a grant from Running Strong for American Indian Youth. The grants will fund a Dreamstarter project of the recipient’s choice.
The Dreamstarter awards were announced last week by Billy Mills, the gold medalist in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo and the founder of Running Strong for American Indian Youth.
Hotchkiss, working with the Durango chapter of the Adaptive Sports Association, plans to hold basketball camps in Ignacio, Gallup and Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico and in Tuba City, Arizona.
Hotchkiss will be going to Washington, D.C., in April with Ann Marie Meighan, program director at the Durango chapter of the association, to learn how to organize, market and manage projects.
Last week, however, Hotchkiss was putting the domination of his disability and his prowess on a monoski to use at Purgatory Resort, where he is showing a military veteran with disabilities from San Diego that his condition doesn’t confine him to an inactive life.
The coaching is part of a three-week internship that all juniors at Animas High School do annually. Most of the 70-some juniors are hosted at area businesses or agencies as Hotchkiss is, but a few go out of state or even abroad.
The four-day Dreamstarter Academy orientation in Washington will provide generic information, applicable to any endeavor, Meighan said. Her office then will support Hotchkiss as he decides how to organize his basketball camps, find coaches and staff and recruit participants.
Hotchkiss’ current plans are for two three-day camps and two one-day camps over the next year. The Billy Mills grant will cover stipends for coaches, rent of facilities and travel, he said. He hopes to land other grants to pay for lodging, food and incidentals.
“I plan to get publicity through newspapers, social media and word of mouth,” Hotchkiss said. “I’d like to have about 20 participants at each training camp.”
He’d also like to have members of an Albuquerque-based coed wheelchair basketball team to which he belongs present at the camps as role models.
Hotchkiss has come a long way since Nov. 16, 2009, when he suffered a broken back and was paralyzed from the waist down in a head-on auto accident that killed his mother, Cassandra Yazzie-Hotchkiss, and left his younger siblings, Amada and Dante, seriously injured.
Hotchkiss is the only Dreamstarter grantee from Colorado. The others – they must be 30 years old or younger – hail from Arizona, New Mexico, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Washington.
Hotchkiss is no newcomer to sports. He rafts and plays basketball, as well as skis. In fact, he is ranked the No. 1 under-21 monoskier in the country by the National Standard Race, a recreational ski and snowboard program.
Hotchkiss is the ambassador for Adaptive Disabled Sports USA to Native Americans.
Then there’s the Southwest Junior Rollin’ Lobos wheelchair basketball team in Albuquerque. The seven members are going to the National Wheelchair Basketball Association playoffs from April 16 to April 18 in Louisville, Kentucky. Before the Rollin’ Lobos qualified, no first-year team ever had made it to the competition, which is celebrating its 28th year.
The team – seven players, two coaches and a trainer – could use financial support. Visit the GoFundMe program at www.http://gofundme.com/mf2r9w online if you wish to make a donation.