Paralympic athlete inspires MHS ladies at senior dinner
MANISTIQUE – “I was the most beautiful baby ever born,” Kelly Allen told an audience of Manistique High School graduating senior girls and their mothers. “I know that because no one in the delivery room could take their eyes off of me.”
Actually, they were looking at the little baby who had only one leg.
During the recent GFWC Manistique Women’s Club annual Senior Girls Dinner, Allen spoke about growing up in Kingsford and a growing desire to participate in activities with her brother and sisters.
“I hated physical therapy,” she said. “I want to play sports.”
The daughter of John and Barb Allen pestered her parents to sign her up for soccer, basketball, baseball, and so on. Playing ablebodied sports meant she was always pushing herself to keep up – which she did, even if she came in last place.
Allen said she began to make her disability part of her identity. She became more active in adaptive sports. In 2006, as an early teen, she became active in the Extremity Games. By the time she graduated from high school, she had letters in tennis and skiing.
She continued skiing and was awarded the “Rising Star” award by the National Disability Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2010, she was invited to be a Youth Ambassador in the Vancouver Winter Paralympics. In 2011, Allen suffered a careerending injury – she tore her ACL.
“And,” she said, “I only have one.”
Retiring from skiing, she took up kayaking. She became a national champion and participated in the 2012 US Para Canoe/Kayak team in the IPC World Championship in Poland. A year later, she took seventh place in the competition in Germany.
“We won’t go into that,” she said with a laugh.
Allen also works with returning wounded veterans.
“I know they take a lot of inspiration from me. If I can do this, so can they,” she said.
This fall, Allen is beginning work on a degree in recreational therapy at Northern Michigan University. She also intends to continue kayaking and working with wounded veterans.
“Wearing a prosthetic is a challenge for sure, but I honestly wouldn’t change anything if I had the chance,” she said. “Everyone has disabilities at some level. I’m lucky that mine has opened more doors than it closed.”