When misfortune befalls, it does not take into account the time, place and age of a person. Who would know it better than 24 year old Shailesh Kumar.
Born and brought up in Gaya, Bihar, Shailesh had always been good with sports. One day, after a football match, Shailesh injured one leg. So, he asked his friend to help him to the room. But as they were struggling to reach the room, his friend lost balance and they both fell, hurting Shailesh in the spine.
That spinal injury, apart from the loss of mobility in the lower half of the body, led to loss of sensation, loss of bladder and bowel control. The long time Kumar spent bed-ridden also subjected him to bed sores and urinary tract infections. He spent a year trying to get the appropriate treatment and getting used to the movements of a wheelchair.
Once Shailesh eased into the wheelchair, he took to playing basketball soon after, since he was always a sportsman. "But people who knew me realised that I would be better at marathon. I was very quick and could push the wheelchair fast and with strength. So, I too realised that I must give it a try. That's how I started taking part in marathons," Shailesh, who is now a trainer at the Chandigarh Spinal Rehab, where he trains and mentors wheelchair-bound people, tells HuffPost India.
It is in one such marathon event that he was spotted by Vaidyanathan, an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore, who is the co-founder of The Ganga Trust. Vaidyanathan, who had himself suffered a spinal injury and was wheelchair bound realised the potential of Shailesh who had become one of India's fastest wheelchair marathoner and was already bagging titles in a matter of two years. As fate should have it, the Ganga Trust was a foundation that supported the rehabilitation of the specially-abled.
The Ganga Trust has joined forces with the wonderful team of Fuel A Dream, that crowd funds for charities, and helps in fulfilling peoples dreams and wishes. They are now crowdsourcing for a world-class wheelchair, the Invacare Top End Eliminator OSR Racing Wheelchair, that would enable Shailesh to compete at the 2020 Paralympics.
Ranganath Thota, founder of Fuel A Dream tells HuffPost India that using a normal wheelchair for marathon is very difficult. It takes up more stamina and energy, leaving the marathoner in a disadvantage. Explaining the difference between the wheelchair Shailesh currently uses and what he needs for the marathon, Thota says, "Imagine one as a truck and the other as a sports car."
The goal is to raise Rs 4,25,000, out of which Rs 58,300 has been raised till now.
"There are a lot of people who have already supported me but I hope a few more come forth, so that I can compete internationally and bring laurels to the country," Shailesh says.
You could help them and fund the wheelchair of a future paralympian by visiting and donating here.