2015 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss (Southern Ute/Southern Cheyenne/Caddo) was just 16 years old when he submitted his application for a Dreamstarter grant to fund his dream of helping wheelchair-bound Native youth such as himself realize their potential.
It was immediately obvious to us that he was wise beyond his years, and five years later his accomplishments have more than exceeded our expectations, but as we are certain, not his own.
Noah’s dream was the “Tribal Ability Program” which was designed to inspire, educate and bring better adaptive sports to disabled Native Americans.
He noted that about five years prior, his family was involved in a severe car crash and he lost the use of his legs — but that didn’t stop him from participating in all kinds of adaptive sports from basketball to snow skiing and white water rafting and he wanted to provide the same opportunities for others in similar situations.
“When I am competing on the court with other disabled athletes I am focused and as intense as any able-bodied player,” he told us. “I have learned to focus on my abilities instead of being defined by my disability.”
He also mentioned that he had met many disabled Native Americans who had no idea about the opportunities that are out there for them.
“I want to use my gifts as an athlete to be able to inspire others to a life that brings wellness to our Native communities.”
Today, Noah plays wheelchair basketball at the college level and notes that there are no adaptive sports programs in the U.S. which focuses on providing opportunities for disabled Native People which inspired his ongoing dream to build on and expand his original Dreamstarter project.
As a full-time student-athlete, Noah has continued to be able to keep his dream moving forward and last year his Tribal Adaptive Program earned nonprofit 501(c)(3) status.
With his Dreamstarter GOLD grant, Noah has four primary priorities: create educational media and material to be able to conduct outreach to schools, communities and tribes; build a strong strategic masterplan for his organization; continue to refine his wheelchair basketball camps, weekly programs and individual advocacy; and have the opportunity to attend, participate in and serve as an advocate at national conference events.
“These are the four areas that we need to build our network and capacity as an organization,” says Noah. “Receiving this Dreamstarter GOLD award will help us achieve these goals.
“I have had a lot of success in the past by putting myself out there and meeting with people at both the local and national level,” says Noah. “It is really important for community leaders, teachers, coaches and health professionals to buy into what we are doing.”
But, for Noah, “The most important buy-in for us to be successful are the people with disabilities themselves. They are the ones who will help educate their families and communities. It really is going to take us all working together to make a future for everybody.
“I am fully committed to the mission of Tribal Adaptive and I will probably be doing this for the rest of my life.”