U.S. Navy veteran and California PVA chapter member Darryl Lair has lived his life by one message: focus on what you can do, and not on what you can’t.
After a motorcycle accident that put him in a wheelchair 29 years ago, Darryl has consistently passed along that message to others – most specifically, kids with disabilities.
He volunteers at the Land Meets Sea Sports Camp at Casa Colina, a program he helped found 24 years ago at the place where he did his rehab. The camp introduces children with disabilities to a variety of sports – but it’s more than that, Darryl says.
“It’s much more than just sports,” he says. “It’s about life; it’s about being independent. Once you realize you can shoot a basketball or use a tennis racket, you realize there is really nothing you can’t do if you really try.”
After his accident, Darryl thought his years of extreme sports might be over. “When I first got hurt, I rode motorcross and in the wintertime I was a ski instructor and I was a pretty avid rock climber,” he says. “I thought ‘Oh my gosh I’m done, my life is over with anything exciting.”
But then a recreational therapist showed him what he was capable of. Knowing his history of adventure, she convinced him to go snow skiing.
“It wasn’t just sports, it was independence; it made me realize that if I can ski, then I can do other things, too.” That is the message he passes along to the kids he mentors.
“I want them to be the best person they can be with whatever they have. It’s about figuring out what you like and what you don’t like and making it happen.”
Darryl remains active with PVA. He has participated in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games for twenty years, and recently served as a mentor on Kids Day. Darryl is also a chef, and teaches cooking classes for children with disabilities. He makes it fun, and shows them how to make healthy stuff – but it’s not really about the meals they prepare. It’s what they learn in the process.
“Everybody has a knife and a cutting board and you do the best with what you have. If you can’t handle cutting things up, you can read the recipes, you can help measure out ingredients, we’ll figure it out. Yes it’s a cooking class but it’s about learning that there is so much you can do.”
Darryl believes the value of PVA is that he receives the funding and opportunity to seek adventures and continue to live a full and rewarding life. He likes to say “yes” to trying new things. And he receives great joy in helping others overcome their challenges.
“I sometimes feel like I get more from it than what I’m giving. It’s helping me understand myself and my life. It’s just really rewarding.”