Eric Rine is an incoming freshman from Bowling Green, Ohio, planning to pursue Automotive High-Performance Racing at The University of Northwestern Ohio. Living with Spina Bifida has never deterred Eric from achieving great things on the field, in the classroom, and in life.
While in high school, Eric participated in hockey and track, receiving scholar athlete awards in both sports. Eric was one of the first people to compete in seated track and field in high school and has been an ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH). Chosen as the Ohio Champion for CMNH, he represented all kids with disabilities in Washington D.C. in 2012.
“Eric is a very hard worker and will achieve anything he puts his mind to. He is destined to be successful in all areas of his life. Eric is incredibly hardworking and has never met a challenge that he hasn’t met head on. He is a kind and thoughtful young man. His positive attitude and approach to life will serve him in whatever endeavors he chooses to take on next.” (Pete Gerken, Lucas County Commissioner)
- Camp Cricket camper
- Ability Center Next Steps Summer Program participant
- Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
- Auxiliary to The Ability Center college scholarship recipient
- State champion in seated shot put
- Incoming freshman at University of Northwestern Ohio
When people see me, they probably first notice my wheelchair. Maybe it's the lights on the wheels, or my red tires. Maybe it's the way I handle it, jumping off curbs and flying down ramps. What I hope they see is my ability, my face, my smile and my zest for life.
I was born with Spina Bifida. But I didn't know it. I was who I was and didn't know the difference. So, when I was a year old, I wanted to walk, just like other one-year olds. "They" said I wouldn't, couldn't. But when I got the right tools, long braces and a walker, I walked. When I was 4, I wanted to ride a bike. "They" said I couldn’t, and Walmart doesn't carry hand cycles. But my preschool helped raise money so I could get one, and then I rode a bike. When I was 6, I asked Santa for a skateboard. I'm sure "he" wondered how a kid like me would ride one, but he left one under the tree anyway. It wasn't long before I had mastered kneeling on it and propelling myself with my arms, flying down ramps and popping wheelies!
You see, I did not know what I "would not or could not" do. I only knew what I wanted to do and I always figured out a way to do it. Whether it was climbing up steps to get into my friend's house because that was the only way in, or crawling across the "bridge" when it was time to cross over into Boy Scouts and the "bridge" would not accommodate my wheelchair. My motto quickly became, "Where there is a will, there is a way.”
They said I wouldn't have a quality of life, ha! Nobody would have expected me to attain the highest rank in Boy Scouts, the Eagle Scout, but I did. They certainly wouldn't believe that I could be a State Champion in a High School sport or a three-time Paralympic High School Track and Field All-American. I am all of these.
How does my disability affect my life? Well, only in that I use adaptive equipment and do things a little differently. I have faced 28 surgeries and a few life threating health situations. But having a disability has also opened up some amazing opportunities to mentor, teach, and advocate. Through my example, younger (and sometimes older) people with disabilities have seen that their life can be active, happy and full. People with disabilities can meld into their community and be a part of everything if they choose. One little buddy of mine, also born with Spina Bifida, has always looked up to me and says, "If Eric does it, I want to do it."
I have been an ambassador for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals since I was 3 years old. In 2012, I was chosen as the Ohio Champion and represented in Washington D.C. advocating for all children with disabilities. I have also been an ambassador for Speedway that raises millions of dollars for CMNH, representing them in their commercials as well as in their media campaigns.
Once of the things I am very proud of is that I have been a pioneer in Northwest Ohio in seated track and field, as I was the first seated athlete to compete on the high school track and field team. My freshman year of high school, there were no local track meets or invitationals that offered specific events for seated athletes. Through advocating, asking and educating, there are now 8 local high schools offering seated events at their invitational meets! There are also now 8 more local athletes who are involved with seated track and field at their schools since opening this opportunity.
My parents and I have been integral in starting the Northwest Ohio Arctic Wolves sled hockey team in Bowling Green, providing the opportunity for people with a physical disability to play competitive hockey. I have been playing sled hockey for 10 years and we wanted to bring the sport to our area to give our community the awareness and provide the opportunity for people with a physical disability to be a part of a competitive team. It has been life changing for the athletes who range in age from 3-47 years old. We have engaged local high school hockey teams to come and play our team in sleds each year, in order to build camaraderie for our high school sled hockey players with their high school stand-up hockey peers. We have shown them that even though we sit in a sled to play, we are every bit the athlete that they are, and have gained a new respect.
I believe that I am the kind of person that you are looking for and should receive this scholarship because I live my life with passion and optimism. I don't dwell on my disabilities. Yes, they impact the WAY I do things, but I still CAN do things! I have shown my community that I CAN be a Boy Scout/Eagle Scout, I CAN be a part of my high school track team, I CAN be an All-American athlete, I CAN be in the National Technical Honor Society, I CAN play sled hockey, ride a hand cycle, ski, golf, bowl, fish, camp, fix a car, be a friend, be a mentor, work hard, love and have a wonderful life.
I have never let anything stop me from doing the things that I want to do in life and my next goal is to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio and pursue my education in Automotive High-Performance Racing. I have always dreamed of being involved with NASCAR and this will lead me to that. As a student at Penta Career Center, in the Automotive Technology Program, I was involved in building a student formula race car. I was also given the job of equipping it with hand controls so that I, too, could drive it! One of the most exciting days of my life was climbing out of my wheelchair into that race car and racing it around the track! Honda, who sponsored the car, even highlighted me in an article about it. They had no idea the life changing impact their sponsorship would have on one student.
I have tried to exemplify a person who can do anything, be included in everything, be a part of our community and life regardless of my disabilities! I am Eric Rine! If you tell me that I "couldn't or wouldn't", "can't or won't" watch out because ........ I WILL!