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Thursday, 01 December 2016 06:57

Gold Medal for Local Paralympic Champ Featured

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 Former Lakebay resident Megan Blunk won a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in September. Former Lakebay resident Megan Blunk won a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in September. Photo: Scott Turner, Special to KP News

Megan Blunk, 27, played on the USA women’s Paralympic wheelchair basketball team in Rio de Janeiro in September. Though she didn’t get a lot of playing time, she said, “it was nice to see everything come together. To see them play so consistent, so solid, with everyone at the top of their game, focused and composed, taught me a lot.”

 After the win, Blunk traveled to Alabama to coach wheelchair basketball at a USA development camp. She and the gold-medal USA teams were later invited to the White House to meet President Obama. They spent four days in Washington, D.C., where they received official congratulations and recognition at the USA Awards Show. They were also guests at a summit conference to learn about public speaking and becoming an entrepreneur to help the young athletes start a career.

Riding high on “commotion and hype," using her terms, Blunk returned to the University of Illinois, where she’s just graduated, to pack up and move back to Washington and decide what she’d do next.

"After eight years of working toward one goal, and I hit it, now what?” she asked.

She had not been back home in Urbana, Illinois, long before her residence was burglarized. Her USA team backpack, new phone and computer were stolen, together with a hard drive containing all her notes for a book she's writing. "I felt devastated and defeated," she said.

She had her gold medal with her, so it was not lost. Suspects were arrested within a few days. "Surprisingly, I got almost all my things back," she said. "It’s almost like it was supposed to happen. You get what you can handle. I am thankful.”

Blunk grew up near Lakebay and graduated from Peninsula High School in June 2008. She was paralyzed from the waist down by a motorcycle accident that July.

She has not slowed down. She has been working with the Tacoma Titans, a co-ed wheelchair basketball program for adults and children, sponsored by Tacoma Metro Parks and the Boys and Girls Club. The Peninsula Athletic Association (PAA) offered her a volunteer position in November coaching third to fifth grade girls’ basketball.

Andy O’Brien of Wauna is the assistant coach. O’Brien is a certified physical education teacher. “He’s the most positive, outgoing person and I’m excited to be working with him,” said Blunk. O’Brien was critically injured in an accident caused by a drunken driver in Bremerton on Sept. 10, 2014.

Blunk’s schedule is filling up. “I’m getting organized and settled in again,” she said. She’s been invited to speak at the Army Pre-Deployment Ball Dec. 8. Her focus will be to lessen the soldiers’ fear of coming home with a disability.

After earning her master's of social work degree with a focus on mental health, Blunk is looking for an opportunity in a University of Illinois accredited internship such as a juvenile detention center or inpatient mental health unit. She hopes to have interviews in January and complete the internship between May and December 2017. Until then, she said she is excited to work as a coach and mentor for young athletes. She plans to do a lot of promoting and help build programs.

“I’ll go anywhere and work with anyone if they will pay for my gas and bridge tolls," she said.

With only six players on her new team, Blunk told the KP News, “It’s been hard for PAA to recruit. If anyone knows any girls interested in playing basketball, let them know late registrations are accepted.”

Follow Blunk’s blog at meganblunk.com.

Read 2686 times Last modified on Monday, 05 December 2016 16:24