MERIDIAN — Brooklyn Gossard has an impressive list of accomplishments as an athlete, recently adding a Triathalon to that list, and she's just eight years old. It's hard to capture her sitting still, especially if she's gearing up to ride her handcycle.
"I named it fireball since it's red," said Brooklyn, "My goal is to do 100 triathlons in one year or two years."
She's worked hard to get up to speed after being diagnosed with transverse myelitis at 15 months old.
"We thought she had an ear infection or something; her balance was kind of off, put her to bed, and by the next morning, she was completely paralyzed from the neck down," said her mother, Allison Gossard.
The illness damages the spinal cord, affecting the lower half of her body most.
She underwent extensive care and surgery, and two years later, her upper body is functioning at nearly 100%. However, to participate in the sports she loves, she needs adaptive equipment, which can cost thousands of dollars.
That's where Challenged Athletes Foundation comes in.
"Grants can come in the form of equipment, it can also be travel expensive, coaches, competitive expenses, anything that's a barrier for our athletes to do what they love," said regional director Jennifer Skeesick.
With the foundation, Brooklyn has attended sports camps, gone surfing, and she's about to start skiing. She's also been introduced to the world of adaptive sports and the community that comes with it.
"I felt sort of cool because I was like hey other people are doing this," said Brooklyn.
"All of a sudden, this personality that we knew was in there was starting to come out," said Allison.
Brooklyn has a built-in support system with her parents and siblings cheering her on.
"Yeah, we're close and sometimes get on each other's nerves, but we're usually more close," said her brother Isaiah.
"I have people to play with and always share my feeling with and someone to keep me company," said her twin sister Isabella.
The handcycle Brooklyn is using is one of only a handful in the U.S. The Challenged Athletes Foundation is making sure more kids, like Brooklyn, can get access.
"Kids left out of anything, able-bodied or kids with disabilities is not right, and there's a lot of kids that don't have an income to play sports, well Challenged Athletes Foundation is bridging the gap for kids with disabilities to get in the game that otherwise they thought they couldn't play," said ambassador Willie Stewart.