Kansas para-athlete using success to give back to local non-profit

para-athlete gives back
Published: Apr. 16, 2022 at 7:45 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A Kansas woman who has been overcoming obstacles to achieve her goals for years is using her success to give back to the community.

Liz Willis has had her fair share of tough times but always comes out on top after losing her leg a decade ago due to a pregnancy complication.

Willis has many accolades in her running career. In 2016 she competed at the Paralympic games in Rio and then became the first winner of the Boston marathon’s para-athlete division in 2021.

The marathon honors some of the first women to win the race, including Willis. She’s using her platform to raise awareness for those with similar circumstances and created the Wichita Adaptive Sports track program to allow those with disabilities the chance at competition.

Emily Pitzer, a Wichita Adaptive athlete, says, “it’s a place where I know I could feel welcome no matter what. It doesn’t matter what my disability is or what I look like.”

The non-profit gives opportunities to people with different disabilities. Some are in wheelchairs, others may have cerebral palsy, but their love for the game is all the same. This group, not confined by their situation, travels the country to compete.

Eric Vitosh, father of an Adaptive Athlete, says, “It’s so awesome that Liz organizes this, and then we can look up to her as a role model and watch her compete at the highest level in the world.”

When Willis retired from the Paralympic games, she joined the board, which was previously Wichita wheelchair sports, and has been helping coach athletes.

“Every athlete has a unique disability that they bring to the table, but I will tell you that every athlete comes and is ready to work. When they go into the school building, they are often the only student you know with their disability. Not only do they get to come and exercise and train on the track, but for them, this is their friend time,” said Willis.

For Willis, her call to coaching extends beyond the track. She wants to use her story and experiences to motivate those following her and show them what they are capable of.

Willis says, “it’s not necessarily the talent you have, but it’s the purpose behind your talent. This, to me, makes me want to run marathons.”

Willis is heading back to Boston and plans to defend her first-place title on Monday. Click here if you would like to help in her fundraising for Wichita adaptive sports.

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