“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
This quote is taken from the homepage of Blake Leeper (www.blakeleeper.com), but has taken on more meaning; Leeper has turned this into a philosophy to help guide him through life, while motivating countless others.
Blake Leeper was born a bilateral paraplegic; he had nothing below the knees. Before he even thought of walking, his doctors told him that he would never be able to. His parents, Edith and Bill, completely disagreed with this and made a decision right then and there: change to doctors who would treat their newborn as though he had limbs, rather than taking his life away before it began. Fortunately, they found doctors who were 100% on board, and Blake was fitted for his first pair of prosthetics when he was 6-months-old. Remarkably, 3 months later, he was walking and keeping up with his able-bodied counterparts. Edith and Bill immediately instilled a mindset that being born without legs isn't an obstacle; it’s real and will be dealt with accordingly. At a very young age, Blake was taught there was no room for excuses. If he wanted to accomplish something, then he would have to go get it. In large part due to the influence of his older brother, Kris, Blake enjoyed participating in every sport from the get-go; basketball was his favorite because it allowed him to run around the most. While some people might be wary of wearing prosthetics, Blake embraced his legs, as they became part of who he is. He wanted to be viewed as an equal competitor, and his legs were just as good, if not better, than his competitors. Blake Leeper could have easily given up because of his condition, but quitting was never an option because of the way he had been raised, along with his fierce quest to be the best.
Leeper is currently a full- fledged United States Paralympian, with his fair share of medals, and customized running legs, to show off. But, his mind is set on a larger goal: becoming a paralympian competing in the able-bodied Olympics. He’s been training, and will continue training, to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: this is his life’s biggest dream, ever since his doctors told him that he wouldn’t be able to walk. Leeper doesn’t understand why disabled people can’t be as competitive as able-bodied competitors, regardless of the stage. During the NBA All Star Weekend earlier this month, Leeper took part in the Celebrity game. As Blake is accustomed to, he more than held his own, outshining more recognizable faces. While playing an exhibition basketball game, he gained attention of some other celebrities, who held a misguided perception that a disabled person can’t be an equal. Blake Leeper showed he belonged among other able bodied celebrities by doing what he has always known to do: competing at the highest level.
The life of Blake Leeper isn’t all about athletics. He utilizes the platform he has to help spread the message of hard work, dedication, and the right attitude as key ingredients to accomplishing life goals and aspirations. Despite his busy training schedule, Leeper sees it as part of his mission to go around the country motivating, encouraging, and inspiring people from all walks of life. He does this because he understands a physical disability isn't an excuse to sit back and watch people pass by, but an opportunity to sprint past.