by Clement Doucette
Senior Owen Anketell’s mantra was to just “keep pedalling,” as he embarked on a monumental 2,900-mile handcycle ride from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida, for his non-profit, Adaptive Sports Awareness during the summer of 2017.
Anketell, born with a condition that leaves him with limited control of his lower limbs, planned the ride to spread awareness for disabled sports and for other athletes like him. While he expected to educate others along his ride, Anketell learned from those he met along the way, gaining inspiration for future activities with his organization.
“We met with a nonprofit in Ormond Beach and they were doing the same thing,” said Anketell. “We were supposed to do a bike ride with them because they hold one once a week, but it was 106 degrees outside that day so they cancelled it.” Although he was unable to ride with the Ormond nonprofit, Anketell learned about other groups farther south that had similar goals. One of them was the Brooks Rehab Center of Daytona Beach.
As Anketell passed through the area, the rehab center was holding one of its weekly bowling nights to promote adaptive sports. “They had a bunch of different people come, whether it’s through town or through the hospital,” said Anketell. “Some people were in wheelchairs, some people couldn’t see, some people couldn’t speak, and they were just out there trying to have fun and do things with everyone else.”
At the bowling night, Anketell educated the attendees about his own cause, while learning about the work at Brooks Rehab. “I got to meet a wide variety of people and tell them my story and just to see how impressed they were really made it awesome,” said Anketell.
In addition to complete strangers, Anketell also inspired his fellow riders. Senior Matt Farrell, a friend of Anketell, was one of these riders. “I learned that anything is possible, and it isn’t just focused on your abilities,” said Farrell. “It is just the mental strength. You have to keep going.”
Anketell’s father, Mark, who drove alongside the cyclists, praised his son’s work. “Just the fact that all three of them took their whole summers and spent sixty-five days on the road, in the heat, in the humidity, riding, was just inspirational to me,” said Anketell.
Owen Anketell now seeks to localize his work and hopes to one day host a handcycle demonstration at Hudson High. “I’ve done it once before,” said Anketell. “A baseball group called Miracle League, which is all physically and mentally disabled kids, got to ride around, and they thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
Anketell, who travels throughout New England as a motivational speaker, is still thinking big. He hopes to continue working on large-scale events through Adaptive Sports Awareness, including a prominent handcycle race in Alaska or a second ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific. As a senior, he has considered college programs focused on nonprofit work after hearing about others who have turned it into a fulfilling career. “I think it’s definitely an interesting path to go down,” said Anketell. “I’m very interested in where it would take me.”