Emily Dowdy has a tough time keeping up with her son, Bryson.
That's because the 6-year-old has a lot of energy. And he's quick - even in his wheelchair.
"I can go really fast," Bryson said, and zipped off down his grandmother's driveway to retrieve a foam football he'd been tossing back and forth with his mom.
Bryson is an athlete, despite the wheelchair and the spina bifida that left him with leg paralysis. The 6-year-old has a heavy rotation of sports activities for every season - basketball, baseball, track and field and a slew of others.
"If he wants to do it I let him do it," Emily said. "And pretty much anything sports, he wants to do."
He does all of this with the Challenger Sports Academy, a co-ed sports program that provides athletic opportunities for kids with physical or development disabilities. He's also participated in the Challenged Sports Championship through CAMC. Last month, he was featured in Sports 'N Spokes, the leading magazine for wheelchair sports and recreation, in a photo that showed him poised to swing at a ball during a baseball game.
"I hit it that time," Bryson said, miming the motion. "I hit it really hard."
All of this puts Bryson at the epicenter of the sporting scene for disabled youth in Charleston - a scene that is unusually robust for a city of this size.
The Challenger Sports Program that Bryson is part of, at the YMCA in Scott Depot, includes kids with a range of disabilities and athletic abilities. Director Jared Davis said they focus on teaching children athletic skills and keeping them active. They lead them through stretches and teach them the rules of the game.
"It also provides a really good socialization experience," Davis said. "It gets them around different people, provides them with something that's different that they haven't been able to experience before, gives them something to look forward to."
CAMC has hosted an athletic program since the late '80s, when it opened its rehabilitation unit. Jeremiah Gagnon, program director, said it just made sense to offer athletic opportunities for people with physical disabilities, because so many people are interested in sports, disability or not.
"We were kind of getting folks back into the things they enjoy," he said. "But then there wasn't anywhere for them to compete, so we started the competition."