Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Former Ottawan with disabilities inspired to organize bike benefit

By ABBY CROSTHWAIT, Special to The Ottawa Herald | 3/28/2013

Brett McMullin hopes the difficulties of his life will help to inspire others.

McMullin, 27, a former Ottawa area resident, was born with a club foot, no fibula in his right leg, scoliosis and a heart murmur. He faced multiple surgeries to help correct his disabilities, including a surgery to even out the differing lengths of his legs — a procedure that involved removing two inches of bone out of his left femur.

Brett McMullin hopes the difficulties of his life will help to inspire others.

McMullin, 27, a former Ottawa area resident, was born with a club foot, no fibula in his right leg, scoliosis and a heart murmur. He faced multiple surgeries to help correct his disabilities, including a surgery to even out the differing lengths of his legs — a procedure that involved removing two inches of bone out of his left femur.

Despite his medical disabilities, McMullin developed a surprising passion: biking.

“The running and jumping was pretty hard on me, but the bike was something I just couldn’t get off of,” he said. “I rode a bike a lot and I could ride farther and faster than anyone, so that was kind of the route I took with it. I got on a bike, and that was all it took.”

That love of biking led McMullin to organize a cross-state bike ride across Kansas to benefit hematology/oncology research at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The fundraiser event is set to begin Saturday at the Kansas-Colorado border.

The ride — dubbed “Destination: Inspire” — is expected to arrive in Burlington by April 5, heading to Garnett April 6. A final stop is planned April 7, before the final jaunt to Children’s Mercy Hospital April 8.

“I’ve had operations done at Children’s Mercy so it’s real special to me to be able to give back to them,” McMullin said. “To help raise money, I sell T-shirts, bracelets and welcome any donations. There’s also a pest control company in Ottawa who’s donating 50 cents a mile.”

McMullin is no stranger to inspiration.

Growing up with two other siblings, he said his father never showed him any special treatment. He took part in basketball, football, wrestling and track, making sure his disabilities never got in the way of what he wanted to do. His father’s decision not to treat him differently was because he didn’t want his son’s disabilities to dictate his life.

Those youth activities led to his biking passion, which took him on an August 2011 ride to Garnett, where he met another rider with similar leg problems.

“I shared my story with him and he said, ‘So biking doesn’t bother you?’ and I said, ‘Oh, yeah, it bothers me, but you’ve just got to push past it,’” McMullin said. “He had emailed me and told me how much I had helped him, and on my way back to Ottawa, I thought that was the most gratifying thing I’d done ... to help someone with their problems by using mine ... and that’s when I thought of ‘Destination: Inspire.’ I was on the destination to inspire.”

McMullin also found inspiration in an Ottawa youth who has been battling a serious medical condition for years.

“There’s a girl in Ottawa, KayLin Gragg, who’s beat cystic fibrosis and I’ve known her my whole life,” he said. “Before I ever even thought of Destination: Inspire, I told her one day I was going to ride across Kansas for her.”

The benefit ride and other such events are hoped to inspire children facing similar circumstances to always hope, dream big, persevere and never give up, McMullin said.

“One thing my father always told me was, ‘It’s not what the circumstance is, it’s what you do with the circumstance,’” he said. “That’s my key to get through any of these trials or anything else that’s tried to hold me back.”

Destination: Inspire’s April 7 stop in Ottawa is expected to include a reception of sorts at Forest Park where community members are invited to meet with McMullin and help celebrate before he finishes the final leg of his trek to the Missouri border.

For more information on the bike ride across Kansas, go to www.facebook.com/destinationinspire

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