The 95th Annual ADEC Convention started on a very warm Friday evening with loads of energy at the Hilton Garden Inn-Liberty Park in Birmingham.
What a great site for our clubs to meet, promote, educate, and celebrate Exchange. Registration seemed low at first, but picked up Friday evening and Saturday morning when Wiley Cutts, ADEC Youth Chair, led the youth oratorical contest, Youth-of-the-Year, and A.C.E. programs. The highlight of the opening banquet Friday night was the induction of Bryan Kirkland, Paralympian Gold medalist in wheelchair rugby and track and field, into ADEC's Court of Honor. When ADEC Treasurer John Schoen detailed all of Bryan's accomplishments after Bryan had a tragic motorcross accident that left him a quadriplegic, the ADEC crowd would not realize the true bravery, grit, and sheer determination that Bryan possessed until he spoke to the convention. With his wife Shai by his side, Bryan displayed a gentle and humble spirit as he talked about how he got his life together, worked hard at the Lakeshore Foundation to train for the Paralympics, while holding down a job at Home Depot. Bryan has been active in both Quadriplegic (“Quad”) Rugby and Wheelchair Racing since 1995. Following his accident racing Moto-X in 1992 which put him in his wheelchair, Bryan has been racing and playing with the same fury and intensity that he had before the accident. Specializing in 5k, 10k and 15k races Bryan can boast of 18 first place finishes in races held around the country. At the 1998 World Championships, Bryan captured a Gold medal and set a new world record in the 200 m race. He also brought home a Silver medal in the 100m and a Bronze in the 400m race. All of this action coincided with his Quad Rugby activities. A three-time member of the U.S. Quad Rugby team which won a Gold medal at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, a Bronze medal at the 2004 Games in Athens and another Gold medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing as the captain of the team, Bryan has continued his success in a wheelchair by captaining the Lakeshore Quad Rugby team. During that time, he won a league record 5 consecutive National Championships, won all tournament team honors 24 times since 1995 and was named Most Valuable Player 9 times. Bryan currently plays rugby with the Texas Stampede where they continue to win team honors and recently was named 2016 United States Quad Rugby National Champs. This is his 6th National Championship making him one of only two players in the United States Quad Rugby Association history to ever achieve. Bryan was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2012, as the first Paralympic athlete.
We were all standing and cheering Bryan as he received his Court of Honor plaque, with tears in our eyes! When speaking with him afterwards, he said he was available to speak to groups and spent some time in the ADEC Hospitality Suite with ADEC members and guests. It was a great start to our convention!