Kelly Butcher and Lauren Giles have proven that where there's a wheel, there's a way.
Physical challenges haven't stopped them from becoming athletes, and they also have become champions while competing for the Columbia County Fireballs wheelchair soccer team.
Kelly, a senior at Greenbrier High School, plays soccer and basketball for the Fireballs. During her four years on the court, she has found a sure-fire way to silence the skeptics.
"Some of my friends don't think we can do much because we're in a wheelchair," Kelly said. "I tell them to come on out and watch us - you might change your mind."
When Lauren joined the Fireballs three seasons ago, she wondered what she was getting herself into.
Columbia County Wheelchair Soccer players Lauren Giles (top) and Kelly Butcher
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I had some reservations, because I wasn't sure how much I could contribute to the team," the Lakeside High School senior said. "I had seen some games before and it was kind of intimidating."
In time, Lauren became the intimidator, establishing herself as the Fireballs top defensive player.
"Who would have thought such an aggressive child was in that body," coach Jane Brewster said of Lauren. "She's a real tiger when she gets out there."
While playing for the Fireballs, Kelly and Lauren have been part of two state soccer titles in the American Association of Adaptive Sports league, but earning trophies wasn't the only reward.
"It's been great," Lauren said. "This has given me a chance to play competitive sports and to work as a team to accomplish your goals."
Kelly, the team's leading scorer this past season, says, "Playing for the Fireballs has brought my confidence up. The competition makes us stronger."
While both girls have finished their soccer careers, they are set to score more goals in the game of life. Lauren wants to be a veterinarian and Kelly plans on becoming a phlebotomist.
Their coach admits that seeing her players move on to bigger things is a bittersweet moment.
"I've watched them grow from being scared to confident. They've been such a big part of this team, it makes me sad to see them go," Brewster said. "I don't know who is going to fill those gaps next season."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.