Hillary SappPark City, UT, United States
FEB 24, 2022 —
Thank you all so much for your support! Team Puerto Rico is heading to Beijing!!!! We couldn’t have done this without you all. Thank you for showing Orlando Perez support, and being behind him through this adventure.
Meet Orlando Perez, a U.S. Veteran and Paralympic alpine skier from Caguas, Puerto Rico. In 2018 Orlando impressed his ambition upon the International Paralympic Committee to compete in the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing. Having been formally invited and accepted to compete in the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, Orlando made travel reservations and paid his way to Beijing. At the 11th hour, Orlando was informed that there was a clerical issue in the paperwork for his participation and he is now being told he will not be allowed to compete.
The big question is, why would Orlando receive acceptance to participate (requiring an application process) and then be rejected at the last moment?
Is a clerical issue a big enough issue to stop this Paralympian from the honor of representing his country and the pride of all his dedicated training put into action?
Please join us in signing this petition to the International Paralympic Committee in stating:
LET ORLANDO COMPETE!
Then share this petition with your family, friends, and social media accounts – we need as many signatures as we can get and time is of the essence! The opening ceremony for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games is this Friday, March 4th.
Get to Know Orlando
Originally from Caguas, Puerto Rico, a city known as the “cradle of the Puerto Rican identity,”. Orlando served in the US Army and was injured in the line of duty, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. As you can imagine, his life changed drastically. Adjusting from serving as a Soldier in the US Army (some of the toughest people you will ever meet) to being unable to use his legs; can you imagine what that must have felt like? Not just physically, but mentally. Suddenly his life is filled with insurmountable mountains but now they look like something most people take for granted: stairs. Recovery from something like this is a lot like traversing mountain tops, down into valleys, and back up again. It is a mental, physical, and spiritual struggle. Not to mention the loss of a career and an identity in the US military. The stresses of taking care of yourself and your family – it all takes a toll, and it takes the support of family and friends. The kind of support that encourages when nothing feels possible.
Orlando credits his wife for persuading him to attend the 1999 National Wheelchair Games (four years after his injury): “I thought it was a pity game. I thought it was a bunch of hospital chairs and a bunch of people running slow. Once I saw the crashes and the motivation of everybody – that got me up” (wrdw.com, 10 Sep 2012; pva.org 27 Jul 2012). Spoken like a true soldier, Orlando was ready for battle.
That year, Orlando received Puerto Rico Wheelchair Basketball Rookie of the Year Award (usocpressbox.org, 20 Jun 2007).and in 2005 Orlando was awarded as the Veteran Wheelchair Games Spirit of the Games Award (va.gov, 20 Jun 2007).
In 2017 Orlando was invited to be the flag bearer for Puerto Rico at the Wheelchair Basketball Americas Cup in Cali, Colombia (tunoticiapr.com, 17 Aug 2017) that year, Orlando retired from wheelchair basketball and took up para-alpine skiing for Puerto Rico – his motto: “bring on the challenges, because I love to overcome them” (discovernac.org).
Orlando doesn’t just participate in sport to compete, the sport and the camaraderie involved allow Orlando to push his perceived limitations and learn how to help others along the way. With his track record of military service and his ambition to compete as a Paralympic alpine skier, Orlando demonstrates a deeply embedded ethos, a sacred commitment even, to “never leave a fallen comrade”. Sometimes a fallen comrade may need to be physically carried, and other times – a fallen comrade needs to feel and see the support of their fellow service members, often this looks like witnessing them overcoming insurmountable challenges – like Orlando Perez becoming a Paralympic alpine skier.
Why this sport? Previously a wheelchair basketball player, he retired from the sport in 2017. He then took up Para alpine skiing after hearing that Puerto Rico was in need of athletes to take part in the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing. “I found something that I can keep up with right next to everybody else. Able-bodied skiers, sit-down skiers, we can all go as fast as we want. If I don’t make it, it’s all me, and I like that. I like to put that pressure on myself, because it’s just going to help open my mind to how I can help others.”
More on FACEBOOK at Orlando Perez PUR Ski Team
From National Ability Center: “Bring on the challenges because I love to overcome them!”