ELIOT, MAINE; June 3, 2012 – The Maine Games offered what could easily be called its most “unique” event of its competition year on Saturday, June 2. Participants from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and even as far as Long Island, New York, came to compete in the second annual Renegade Rodeo.
This event is an outdoor obstacle course for users of a specially designed, manually operated all-terrain wheelchair called the Renegade
. Participants in this timed race over rocks and logs, through sand and deep, thick mud, over moguls and up steep inclines all powered themselves through a 75-yard course and proved beyond a doubt that the rugged Renegade All-terrain Wheelchair can change the world for those who were previously limited to observing from the sidelines in their traditional wheelchairs.
John Rackley, of Kittery, the inventor of the Renegade, and a three-time Maine Games athlete, was honored following the competition and was presented with the 2012 Travis Roy Courage Award.
Since 2007, this award has been presented annually to a Maine Games athlete who has demonstrated uncommon courage and determination to overcome obstacles to compete alongside able-bodied athletes in their chosen sport.
The award is named after Yarmouth, Maine native, Travis Roy, who as a college freshman hockey player at Boston University, was paralyzed when he crashed head-first into the boards just 11 seconds into his first collegiate hockey game. Roy has demonstrated his own uncommon courage following his accident, graduating from BU, becoming a motivational speaker, an accomplished painter, and today overseeing his own foundation which raises money and awareness for spinal cord injury research and support for people and their families affected by spinal cord injuries.
“John Rackley embodies the very spirit of the Travis Roy Courage Award,” said Maine Games executive director, Jeff Scully. “As an athlete, outdoors man, and advocate for the handicapped, he has a tremendous spirit, but his dedication to the development of his Renegade, and those who have new-found mobility because of his vision, is even more impressive.”
Previous recipients of the Travis Roy Courage Award include: 2007-Ryan Jabar, Waterville (powerlifting); 2008-Michael Golek, Harpswell (wrestling); 2009-Gaelen Saucier, Bangor (powerlifting); 2010-Eddie Warren, Cornish (football); 2011-Seth Reardon, Orrington (powerlifting).
Necessity is the mother of invention.
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Rackley decided, however, after an accident on his daughter’s trampoline which left him paralyzed more than a decade ago, that instead of making lemonade, he’d make something that would help him return to the great Maine outdoors which he had always loved and enjoyed.
Considering the physical barriers that would naturally keep anyone in a similar situation from enjoying much of that which makes Maine an attractive venue for hunters, fishermen, and hikers, Rackley, a cabinetmaker by trade, went into his workshop and created the prototype for the Renegade All-terrain Wheelchair.
The heavy-duty Renegade uses similar technology found on multi-gear bicycles with independent drives on each wheel, and is powered by the user who uses two long push bars to propel the chair through and over formidable terrain. With a number of different gears, the Renegade can be used by anyone with upper-body mobility and strength.With the Renegade, those who would normally be restricted to relatively flat, smooth surfaces in their traditional wheelchairs can now enjoy outdoors activities such as hiking, hunting, fishing, even yard work, snow-shoveling, and skiing.Rackley, Renegade All-terrain Wheelchairs, and the non-profit organization Alpha-One
hosted the second annual Maine Games Renegade Rodeo in Eliot at an obstacle course built specifically for users of his chairs. This unique course was designed and constructed by Rackley and friends in a wooded area on property owned by a family member and just a short distance from Rt. 236 and the Maine Turnpike.Two members of the Wounded Warrior Project, from New York, and others competed alongside Rackley in a timed race over rocks and logs, through mud and sand, and over moguls and steep inclines. Spectators included family members of the participants, and a representative from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who all braved the steady rain and wind … and extreme muddy conditions to support the athletes in their quest for Maine Games gold, silver, and bronze medals, but also as a tribute to Rackley and his amazing invention.
The difficult weather conditions which duplicated those from last year’s inaugural Renegade Rodeo, athletes powered themselves over a course that without the Renegade All-terrain Wheelchair, would be impossible for anyone without use of their legs and using a traditional wheelchair.
Rackley has been a participant in Maine Games events dating back to 2009, when he brought his Renegade and two other users to Medomack Valley High School’s Maine Games Cross Country Championship in Waldoboro.
“John’s dedication to the Maine Games as a promoter as well as an athlete, makes him an ideal recipient and role model for our organization,” said Scully.
“The number of people John’s chair has already impacted around he country, but especially the enormous number of people who will be using the Renegade in the future, including returning military heroes injured in wars overseas is so amazing. He’s a perfect example of someone who has been handed a very difficult challenge, and who has never looked at his disability as anything but an opportunity to help himself and others,” said Scully.
The Renegade All-terrain Wheelchairs are made in Maine, and are now being promoted by the Maine-based non-profit organization Alpha-One, an agency that promotes independence for people with disabilities.Plans for the 2013 Maine Games Renegade Rodeo are already in the works, and more information about this event or any other Maine Games events can be found
or on the Maine Games Facebook page