Chris Di Virgilio of SPORTS ‘N SPOKES Tells About Some of His Most Inspiring Interviews

Editor’s Note: Today Christopher Di Virgilio misses the brotherhood of the Marines, so he maintains relationships with local recruiters and the VA. He speaks at schools about military life and brings his helmet and flak jacket for the children to wear, as well as MRE’s for them to taste. In interviewing for “SPORTS ‘N SPOKES”, he’s gotten to know many people who have had terrible events in their lives and not only survived but also have come back stronger and more successful than they may have been had they not suffered great pain and great loss. Where you people find the courage to continue on with your life? The only way to gain courage is to defeat fear every day. The most-courageous people in the world have attacked the most-fearful situations in life. Courage is the key ingredient for happiness, because happiness has no place in a life of fear. Part 3 of a 3-part series.

Chris Di VirgilChris Di Virgilio of SPORTS 'N SPOKES magazine is glad he made the decision to join the Marines. io is glad he made the decision to join the Marines.

Chris Di Virgilio of SPORTS 'N SPOKES magazine is glad he made the decision to join the Marines.

I get to meet some of the most-amazing people in the world every day through my job at SPORTS ‘N SPOKES. They are inspiring on many different levels. They aren’t quitters, they don’t seek self-pity, they don’t want fame, and they are just who they are. They live their lives and try to give positive feedback to others within their realm of friends and relatives. Much like Chuck has been an inspiration to me, these people try to be an inspiration to the people they know.

I’m often asked to share stories of some of the athletes I interview for S’NS, and I’ve been fortunate enough to interview who I believe to be some of the most courageous and happiest people in the world. Most of them have achieved their goals through terrible tragedy. One of the people I’ve gotten to know is Christine Kent from Florida, who has one of the most tragic stories I’ve ever heard. Yet, her attitude about this tragedy is amazing.

Christine Kent is a wheelchair athlete now, but before her injury, she was a model and a college student. She was injured at the hands of a stalker. She’d known this man casually over many years and never had any inclination to fear this person. Then one day after not seeing him for more than 3 years, this guy knocked on her door, and she invited him into her home – just like you would invite in any old friend. The next thing she remembered was that she had a gun to her head, and her assailant told her, “Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing.”

Christine tried everything she could to get away from this person. She attempted to empathize with this individual and asked him what was wrong and what was going on in his life. The whole time she was in a conversation with this man, she was inching her way away from him. She finally got out the door, and then she heard a gun shot. The first bullet struck her in the foot, and the second bullet went through her spine. She remembered screaming for help and hearing the shooter getting into his car.

However, instead of driving away, he drove his car on top of her and steered the wheel of his car into her abdomen and then drove-off. Then the shooter returned, picking up the empty shells that he’d fired, dragging her body behind her house and leaving her to die. Luckily, neighbors heard the shots and her cries for help, and she was found behind her house.

See the news story about the day Christine Kent faced her attacker in court:

 

After the shooting, she went through years of surgeries and rehabilitation. If you met her today, other than seeing her in her wheelchair, you never would know the pain and suffering she went through. She competes as a crank cyclist, using her arms to race her cycle. Cycling has been a part of her rehabilitation.

Learn more about Christine Kent at: http://pvamag.com/sns/article/3557/touch_of_grace

One of the things I like most about my job is I meet so many positive people. Negativity brings me down and is contagious. I hate the term, “those people.” People in wheelchairs and people with physical problems are not, “those people” – they are just people. They’re no different from anyone else, and they have their struggles like you and I do. They push the limits to find out what they can accomplish.

I feel that being able to work with inspiring people like this keeps me close to Chuck in a way. He was the same type of person, even though he wasn’t an athlete. Where we lived, we weren’t aware of wheelchair athletics. Chuck and I were just kids, and we were friends. His wheelchair was no different to me than having a friend who was heavy or skinny. He was just a friend. He knew my mom, my mom knew his mom, and he taught my sister how to play poker.

From people like Jennifer Kumiyama, a young lady with spina bifida who was crowned 2010 Ms. Wheelchair California to Christiaan Bailey, a world-renowned surfer and wheelchair extreme sports enthusiast to Nick Scott, a pioneer and advocate in the sport of wheelchair bodybuilding, they are just a small handful of inspirational stories and positive role models I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and the honor of now calling friend.

In 2011 I was introduced to 3-year-old Maile via a YouTube video posted by her aunt, Gayla Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a professional photographer and was one of four judges during the S’NS-LASCI Get Out, Enjoy Life summer photo contest. I immediately fell in love with Maile’s story and sweet smile as captured by her aunt. Maile has spina bifida but despite that enjoys surfing and took part in a Life Rolls On event in Hawaii.

View Maile’s video below and check out her aunt’s photographic talent at http://www.gaylaelizabeth.com.

 

This job helps me stay in touch with the friendship I had with Chuck [See Day 2] and also allows me to satisfy my desire to support veterans, even though SPORTS ‘N SPOKES Magazine and the webpage aren’t just for veterans. My goal before S’NS hired me was to write a column about the veterans in Arizona. When I landed this position, I really had found my dream job. Since I’ve been here, I don’t feel like I’m working, because I get to do exactly what I’ve always wanted to do.

My future looks bright, and I want to finish my 4-year degree in journalism. I guess you could say I’ve lived my life somewhat backwards. I got out of high school, joined the U.S. Marine Corps, got a job and then decided to get an education. Most people get the education and then go get the job.

Luckily, this job found me. I want to improve myself and educate myself as much as I can, so that I can stay in the job I have right now well into the future. I want to grow with S’NS no matter what that growth includes. PN magazine has been around since 1945 and SPORTS ‘N SPOKES started in 1975. These two magazines are doing well, even while much of print media is struggling right now.

We want to reach-out to as many athletes as we can within the scope of S’NS and continue to grow in whatever direction SPORTS ‘N SPOKES goes. I’m living my dream, and as my favorite radio personality Paul Harvey would say, “I haven’t worked in years.”

About SPORTS ‘N SPOKES:  SPORTS ‘N SPOKES is a bimonthly publication produced by the Paralyzed Veterans of America. S’NS reports on competitive sports and recreation for wheelchair users. Since 1975, S’NS has been a leader in wheelchair sports coverage and currently goes to more than 43 countries worldwide. Our readers come from all walks of life all having one thing in common: determination! SPORTS ‘N SPOKES is committed to providing a voice for the wheelchair sporting and recreation community. Learn more at: http://pvamag.com/sns 

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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