Bits & Pieces: Ex-Marine Rob Jones brings inspiring story back to Columbia

The recent visit to Howard County and more specifically to Chapelgate Christian Academy in Marriotsville by former Columbian Rob Jones should be an inspiration to those with or without a disability. Rob is an ex-Marine and a double amputee who is cycling from Maine to California to raise funds for veteran organizations. If you don't get a lump in your throat just thinking of the sacrifice that he already made for his country and the sacrifices to his body that he is making now with this cycling tour, then there really isn't much else I can say that will move you.

Here is a man who could have stayed at home feeling sorry for himself because of the cards he has been dealt in life, and yet he is out with the intent of covering nearly 5,500 miles in five months to help others. Rob was a combat engineer on a tour in Afghanistan in 2010 when he was struck by an improvised explosive device resulting in the double amputation of both legs above the knees. He then went on to capture a Bronze medal in the 2012 London Paralympics.

Then there's Bob Quick, who for all intents and purposes died of a heart attack, but was revived and has 16 stents to keep his heart going. And yet there is Bob on his bike coming from Utah to raise money for five charities. I forgot another part of his remarkable story: he also was given a pacemaker in April of 2013. Still none of these problems can keep Bob away from completing his bike journey. I'd hate to tell you where I would be if I had that many stents and a pacemaker. It certainly would not be on a bike crossing this country. Bob is a driven man and this trip is ample proof of that. He stops at fire stations on his route and the firefighters think the world of him.

Rob Jones and Bob Quick are just two supposedly disabled people who will not allow their disabilities to interfere with their goals. There are many others, some in our own community, who simply will not allow disabilities to dictate their lives.

It is certainly a long way from my childhood when those who were disabled were kept at home. They almost became non people. We never saw them and we knew them only from idle chatter. Today disabled athletes are doing remarkable things. A person with no legs actually running and winning races. Impossible you say? Years ago it was, but not today, thanks to new technology. A young lady from our own Howard County community with spinal bifida winning four consecutive marathons in one year? Impossible? No, it actually happened, and Tatyana McFadden will undoubtedly win more. And there are countless stories just like these throughout our country and in the world.

The man known as "Mr. Triathlon" here, one Rob Vigorito, was asked to train some athletes with varying serious disabilities. He took on the challenge willingly with great results. He told me recently that "these athletes all have potential. It is up to us to bring out that potential." And that is exactly what organizations like Special Olympics and TriColumbia are doing: offering opportunities to those who have disabilities so they can maximize their potential.

Why no volleyball for boys?

Mike Kalinock grew up in Columbia and has been involved in volleyball for the better part of 20 years as a player and coach. He is attempting to get boys involved in the great sport of volleyball as well. I played volleyball as a kid in school and I also wondered why boys aren't involved.

Kalinock is not sure if boys volleyball will catch on as a high school sport but he would like to get a club team started. He will be having a clinic on Dec. 3 at the MD Juniors Sports Center for kids between the ages of 10-13. The clinic will continue for 12 weeks. The cost is $120 per player and kids will learn volleyball fundamentals in a fun, challenging way.

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