WROP HALL OF FAME
Darrius Simmons’s Journey
Seventeen year old Darrius Simmons has been playing piano since he was first introduced to it in an elementary school music class in his hometown of Warren, OH. Although he has never had any formal training, he now plays in his high school jazz band, for local events, and has even played in Carnegie Hall along side South Korean pianist Yiruma.
Due to a genetic birth defect, Darrius was born with just three fingers on his right hand, and one on his left. He also had to have both legs amputated when he was a toddler, so he uses two prosthetics to walk and work the piano’s pedals.
Despite the fact that he only has three fingers on his right hand and one on his left, Darrius continues to play and write his own piano music.
Darrius has now had a taste of internet success as well. After he uploaded his original composition, “Dreams Are Forever,” to his Facebook page, the video went viral with over four million views in the first few days online.”
“I’m glad I inspire people. That’s all I ever really wanted to do, just share my great music with everybody, and just put a smile on their faces,” – Darrius Simmons
Member of US Paralympic Bobsleigh Team
Western Reserve O&P is proud to sponsor Barry Schroder of the United States Paralympic Bobsleigh Team. He’s chosen to share his journey with everyone on our website. We proudly sponsored his participation in the 2015 Tough Mudder Event in Mid-Ohio, and discovered that he is, indeed, a force to be recognized. His strength of spirit helps us, and many others, to maintain our own strength in everyday life.
Barry is passionate about many things. He is a husband, father, paramedic, volunteer firefighter and now, a bobsleigh pilot! In 2015, he was asked to join the U.S. Para Olympics Bobsleigh team.
He maintains a level of courage, strength, and determination that many may not be able to imagine in one’s life. A vehicle hit Barry, who was riding his motorcycle in a scholarship fund run. He lost his leg as a result of the accident. This was just before his wife gave birth to their second daughter. Additionally, he had just begun his new job and his insurance had not kicked in yet.
Setting his sights on yet another mission of hard work paired with determination, Barry began to work out for team USA. Although he had no previous experience piloting a bobsleigh, he discovered he did as well as seasoned pilots with 10 years of experience. He has successfully participated and finished in USPO bobsleigh events in Calgary and Utah since 2015. His ultimate goal is to participate in the 2022 games.
Barry and his family could use some funding for continuing in events of the U.S. Paralympic Bobsleigh Team. You can donate on CrowdRise, where you can add your support to Barry’s financial aid, allowing him to continue with the USPO. He is certainly a special man to support.
From afar, Stacey Kozel looks like your average hiker on the Appalachian Trail. But when you get a closer look, you’ll know she’s different.
“When people come up to me, they don’t realize I’m paralyzed,” says Kozel. “They think something is wrong with my knees I guess.”
A combination of a car accident and Lupus left her paralyzed two years ago.
“I walked into the hospital and quickly lost all mobility except for my left arm,” says Kozel.
But she wasn’t going to let it stop her from walking all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
“If I don’t wear these, I’m in a wheelchair so my wheelchair doesn’t quite get over all these boulders,” says Kozel.
The ‘these’ that Kozel is referring to are the braces she wears on her legs. It’s called a C-Brace, created by Ottobock. The brace has sensors attached to the bottom of it. It’s the part that touches her feet. “[the sensors] Sends it up through this spring here to the computer, which sends the message here and then I use the upper body to basically manipulate it all,” explains Kozel. It’s complicated, but it gives and pulls tension to let Kozel bend her knees. There are no motors, just movement of her hips and upper body.
So while she walks, Kozel wants to send a message to the insurance companies that give patients a hard time getting these C-Braces approved.
“These aren’t just a luxury, it improves the quality of life and can give someone their life back,” says Kozel.
With the braces, she’s trekking 15 to 20 miles on a good day. The braces are also helping spread another message.
“I just don’t want people to give up, whatever they’re going through you know never know if you just keep going and the possibilities are endless if you ask me,” says Kozel.
Kozel is from Ohio but flew to Georgia at the end of March to start her journey on the Appalachian Trail. She doesn’t have a timeline on when she’ll reach Maine, but she hopes to finish by the end of the year.