Darryl Lair: Hero Story
If you know something, share the knowledge; and if you have overcome adversity, help others do the same. Today on National Mentoring Day we recognize those who make the world a better place by sharing their lessons and gifts with others.
U.S. Navy veteran and California PVA chapter member Darryl Lair is one such hero. An accident that put him in a wheelchair 29 years ago didn’t stop him from having a full and rewarding life, and he wants to pass that lesson along to children in a similar situation.
He has one big message: focus on what you can do, and not on what you can’t.
That’s how Darryl has lived his life, and he consistently passes along that inspirational lesson to kids with disabilities. Darryl recently served as a mentor on Kids Day at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, and he is active back in his California community helping kids thrive despite challenges.
After his accident, Darryl did think his years of extreme sports might be over, until recreational therapist Anne Johnson showed him what he was capable of. Knowing his history of adventure, she convinced him to go snow skiing.
“It wasn’t just sports, it was independence; it made me realize that if I can ski, then I can do other things, too.” That is the message he passes along to the kids he mentors.
“I want them to be the best person they can be with whatever they have. It’s about figuring out what you like and what you don’t like and making it happen.”
He volunteers at the Land Meets Sea Sports Camp at Casa Colina, a program he helped found 24 years ago at the place where he did his rehab. The camp introduces children with disabilities to a variety of sports – but it’s more than that, Darryl says. “It’s much more than just sports,” he says. “It’s about life; it’s about being independent. Once you realize you can shoot a basketball or use a tennis racket, you realize there is really nothing you can’t do if you really try.”
Darryl is also a chef, and teaches cooking classes for anyone with disabilities. He makes it fun, and shows them how to make healthy stuff – but it’s not really about the meals they prepare. It’s what they learn in the process.
“Everybody has a knife and a cutting board and you do the best with what you have. If you can’t handle cutting things up, you can read the recipes, you can help measure out ingredients, we’ll figure it out. Yes it’s a cooking class but it’s about learning that there is so much you can do.”