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Patient is ESPY Award honoree, recognized for making a difference
July 08, 2024
CHoR patient Hannah Smith smiling and holding her puppy outside

    CHoR is cheering Hannah Smith on as she heads to Hollywood

    What do tennis star Billie Jean King and CHoR patient Hannah Smith have in common? Big hearts, a love of sports and a desire to make a positive impact. This powerful combination has earned Hannah recognition as winner of the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award, one of the Sports Humanitarian Awards to be featured during the 2024 ESPYS.

    A love of basketball becomes a way of welcoming and inspiring others

    CHoR patient Hannah Smith shooting a basket from her dad's shoulders as a toddlerHannah was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair for mobility. She fell in love with basketball at a young age.

    “I have a photo of me when I wasn’t in school yet sitting on my dad’s shoulders and holding a basketball, about to shoot,” said Hannah. “My family has always been very much a sports family. My parents realized basketball was an opportunity for me to be physically active and make social connections, so they jumped on it.”

    Hannah has had a basketball in her hands ever since and started playing competitively with Sportable at age 11. Sportable is dedicated to creating opportunities and making sports inclusive for people with physical disabilities and visual impairments. Hannah saw an opportunity to reach even more people and helped the organization launch their inaugural wheelchair basketball camp for kids and a women’s wheelchair basketball clinic.

    Unconditionally committed to helping people pursue their passions

    CHoR patient Hannah Smith playing basketball with SportableLast year, another of Hannah’s grand plans came to fruition. Her See it, Be it storytelling project and social media initiative is designed to showcase the diverse career opportunities available for young people with disabilities and inspire them to go after their dreams.

    See it, Be it came out of conversations I had with parents at basketball practice. They were telling me how their kids don’t see successful people with disabilities on tv, social media, etc. as much as they should. I looked back and realized I felt the same way as a kid, but I had hoped it would have changed by now,” Hannah said. “I wanted to make a project from people with disabilities, for young people with disabilities and people who are newly injured. My hope is that as See it, Be it grows, they will be able to scroll and scroll and scroll to see all the opportunities available to them.”

    Heading to Hollywood and what comes next for Hannah

    Hannah’s intensely inspirational work has earned her a Sports Humanitarian Award, specifically the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award, and a trip to Hollywood. The Sports Humanitarian Awards program will take place the evening of Wednesday, July 10 as part of ESPYS Week, and will be featured during The 2024 ESPYS broadcast nationally on ABC the following evening at 8 p.m.

    “I am shocked. I’m grateful. This is an award named after the legendary Billie Jean King who has done so much for equality in sports. I could not be more grateful for this recognition, especially for my work in adaptive sports which I love so much. I’d really love to get more people involved in adaptive sports,” Hannah added.

    As Hannah soaks up the celebration, she’ll have plenty of CHoR fans cheering her on from home.

    CHoR patient Hannah Smith at an appointment“Having a complex diagnosis since birth, I have been seen at CHoR countless times. I have always felt welcomed and had faith in the care of the doctors and nurse practitioners,” she said. “Jenna Brand in the spina bifida clinic is the face that has always been comforting to me. She has even come to watch my wheelchair basketball games. I also had a diagnosis of anemia a few years ago, which the hematology team worked to quickly diagnose and fix. Dr. India Sisler was on the team that saved my life.”

    “Hannah always has a smile on her face and a glow of positivity. I have watched her transform into such a vibrant young woman over the years of caring for her and I am beyond proud of what she has set her mind to and what she has accomplished,” said Jenna. “She has always wanted to make a difference and her involvement in Sportable and the creation of her social media project, See it, Be it, truly exemplifies this award. She is going to continue to do amazing things in our community.”

    Hannah hopes to make the most of her first ever trip to California.

    “I can’t wait to be a tourist and see all the sights I can see and hopefully meet some really cool people at the ESPYS,” she laughed. “My dream is to meet Caitlin Clark. And if I can catch a sunset at the Santa Monica Pier I will be so happy.”

    After the trip, she’ll get right back to work, helping Sportable run the second annual women’s wheelchair basketball clinic, followed by the third annual youth basketball camp. Then she’ll return to University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for her final semester working toward her bachelor’s degree in communications.

    Look for more inspirational stories on the CHoR blog.

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