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news News Thursday, October 18, 2018 Thursday, October 18, 2018 1:59 PM - Thursday, October 18, 2018 1:59 PM

Skye sets her sights on the Paralympics

Skye sets her sights on the Paralympics

When Paralympic hopefuls gathered on an Oklahoma college campus this past August to train in sitting volleyball, 13-year-old Skye was excited to be among the youngest members of the group. Skye, who was unexpectedly born with only one hand, has been breaking barriers her entire life. This Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago patient was recruited by USA Volleyball at an elite qualifying tournament in Chicago. Skye came to the tryout to play as a setter in the traditional form of the game, using only one hand.

USA Volleyball's Sitting Volleyball Manager Elliot Blake said a friend at the check-in desk called him over to meet Skye’s parents. “I was very intrigued to get Skye involved in sitting volleyball because she is already playing the standing game, and having previous volleyball experience is a huge benefit in learning how to play the sitting game,” Blake said.

The family knew their daughter was good at volleyball and an inspiration to others. “She trains with a former Olympic setter. She made the Madison Elite club team for 13-year-olds as a setter and her team voted her captain,” Daniel, Skye’s father, said. But they were pleased and surprised when the Paralympics team asked if Skye could join their training program. “We were on cloud nine, to tell you the truth. We didn’t expect it,” Daniel said.

Early adopter of prosthetics

Skye’s parents, Daniel and Renee, brought her to the Chicago Shriners Hospital from Wisconsin when she was an infant. Daniel learned about our hospital staff's expertise in working with children with limb differences from his uncle, who is a member of the El Zaribah Shrine Club. Skye saw Jeffrey Ackman, M.D., a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in limb differences and prosthetics. He prescribed a prosthetic hand. “She was an early adopter of prosthetics at 5 months,” Renee said.

Skye grew up with a typical childhood despite her difference. “Anybody that gets to know her, she’s an inspiration,” Daniel said. “My wife and I never treated her any differently. We always treated Skye like she had two hands.”

Their daughter participates in volleyball, basketball and running, and is a Girl Scout. Skye wore a prosthetic lower arm until fourth grade. “Then she decided she didn’t need one,” Renee said.

“Patients wear prosthetics and sometimes reject them,” Dr. Ackman said. “If a child has a missing leg, they need one to walk. If it is upper limbs and they are functional, sometimes patients choose to go without one.” This past year Skye told her parents she would like to have an arm to wear to church or special events. The Paralympic team also suggested she get a prosthetic “volleyball arm" to create a larger blocking area and help her mobility while scooting around the court. The family came to see Dr. Ackman and he prescribed the type of device she would need. The family then worked with Bill Craggs, manager of the Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services – Midwest, LLC, team at the Chicago Shriners Hospital. In June, Skye received a prosthesis that can be used with a hand attachment or a volleyball scoop attachment.

Training for 2020 or 2024

Skye has already attended two camps as part of USA Volleyball’s High Performance Sitting Volleyball Athlete Development Program. She plans to continue working, with her sights set on making the 2020 or 2024 U.S. Paralympics Team. ”We spend a lot of time working on the fundamentals of the game, teaching team strategy utilized by our national teams and working to prepare athletes for future national team consideration.So for Skye, getting her involved in our program now, we can continue to improve her volleyball skills while teaching her the subtle differences in the sitting game, and continue to encourage her to train towards the national team if that is the path she wishes to pursue,” Blake said.

“She was moving and grooving and had an absolutely wonderful time. It was the first time she was with people that all had limb differences. They could talk about things that happened at school and things people say to them about their difference,” Renee said. “It is a very fast game. They use a pickleball-sized court. It is the same size net, just on the floor. She loves it."

Skye gives high five to staff member, Skye on volleyball court