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Monday, September 7, 2009

Paralympian will speak at benefit



Blake Leeper joined the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kingsport in elementary school. Not only did he learn to excel in sports there, he learned basic life skills.
Leeper, now a junior pre-med major at the University of Tennessee and a member of U.S. Paralympic Team, will be the keynote speaker at a benefit dinner hosted by Riverfront Seafood Co. at 6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 13 at the Netherland Inn Road restaurant.
The benefit dinner coincides with the one-year anniversary of the BGCK’s newest facility just off West Stone Drive. An overview of the programs and progress made during the first year of operation will precede Leeper’s talk. Following the program, attendees will enjoy dinner and dessert.Born with no legs below the knees, Leeper was fitted with prosthetics and got his start playing sports as a 5-year-old basketball play in the Kingsport Parks and Recreation League. He joined the Boys and Girls Club a couple of years later.
“I joined around 7 years old. I played baseball and basketball there. During the summer, me and my brother attended the summer program,” Leeper said. “I was a member about five or six years, give or take.”
The staff and programs of the BGCK left a positive impression on the youngster.
“I learned basic life skills. I learned to become a better person in general. I learned to become a better athlete,” he said.
Leeper played both basketball and baseball at Dobyns-Bennett High School. As a senior in 2007, he was named to the inaugural Kingsport Times-News Elite boys basketball team.He participated in the USCO Endeavor Games in Oklahoma in June, where he won three gold medals. He placed first in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races, but it was his victory in the 100-meter that won him a place on the U.S. Paralympic Team as the only T-43 athlete. T-43 means no lower limbs.
He competed internationally this summer in Rio de Janeiro, earning a bronze medal in the 100-meter and a silver in the 200-meter. He’ll return to Brazil in 2011 and will also compete that year in New Zealand. He’s training for the World Paralympics, set for 2010 in London, where he could compete against South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, also a T-43 double-amputee and considered the fastest man with no legs.
At UT, Leeper is a physics major with plans to become an orthopedic surgeon.
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kingsport is a United Way of Greater Kingsport agency, serving approximately 1,000 youth in the Kingsport community each year. The club provides quality programs that encourage educational, character and leadership development to more than 250 children each day.
In addition to the main unit located at 1 Positive Place, the club operates three satellite units in Kingsport public housing complexes.
Tickets to the event are $25 each with all proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Sue at 230-4160, ext. 233.