Para-athlete to be Food For Thought speaker on Feb. 14

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LEWISTON — Joshua Kennison of the Oxford-Norway area, a para-athlete winner of several Paralympic medals, will be the featured speaker at the USM Lewiston-Auburn Senior College “Food for Thought” luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14, in Function Room 170.

This program is open to the public. The cost, which includes lunch, is $7 with advance reservation or $8 at the door. Reservations must be made by noon on Thursday, Feb. 13, by calling 753-6510. Any late callers will be considered “at the door.” Early reservations are encouraged as a full house is expected.

Kennison’s presentation is timely with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia running Feb. 7-23 and the Paralympic Games running March 7-16. He will speak of his amazing accomplishments as a congenital quadrilateral amputee in the Paralympic Games.

Josh, as he is known by his family and legion of friends, will speak about his extraordinary life and how he overcame his many congenital anomalies: born without a tongue, a partial jaw, arms that stopped at his elbows and without feet. Learn how he became a Paralympic champion with a positive and determined philosophy, training, a goal and the aid of prosthetics.

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Josh has achieved outstanding physical goals in his young life. He has a never-give-up attitude, “joie de vivre” and a sense of humor.

Josh was born in 1989, a congenital quadrilateral amputee. His parents, Louanne Rainey and Jeff Kennison, decided from the beginning that he would be raised no differently than any other child. He started public school at age 5, going mainstream. He did receive help, one-on-one, with speech and occupational therapy.

As he grew older, his forte was in sports, soccer and track being his favorites. With the aid of prosthetics, Josh competed in high school sports and graduated from Oxford Hills High School. He went on to college, but soon realized that academics was not for him and returned home.

He had the dream of being on the college soccer team and turning pro. He was at loose ends when he came home and wondered what he would do with his life. In 2008 he learned about the U.S. Paralympics team. It became his focus and enriched his life. He set a goal to make the team in 2012 or 2016 and he trained vigorously. He made the team.

Josh finished third in the 100-meter dash on July 23 last year, winning a bronze medal at the International Paralympics Committee Athletics World Championship in Lyons, France.

In 2010, Josh competed in the 11th annual UCO Endeavor Games in Oklahoma City against individuals with limb loss from around the U. S. He won three gold medals, one in 200-meter, one in high jump and one in long jump, and a silver medal in the 100 meter.

Josh also competed in the U.S. National Paralympics Track Meet in 2010 and won a silver medal in the long jump. He was invited to attend the Walt Disney Invitational where he recorded his fastest time in the 100-meter at 11.7 seconds, a personal best.

In addition to training five days weekly for the Paralympics, Josh is head coach for the girls’ soccer team at Oxford Hills Middle School. He also does public speaking engagements. He has worked as a counselor at Camp No Limits in Rome, Maine, an organization he has been involved in since 2005.

Josh also works with the Never Say Never Foundation to provide support for amputees and is a recipient of the 2010 Amway Hero Award.

Josh surprises people when he tells them he drives a car. He has lived on his own since he was 18 and without a caretaker. He has received financial support from groups such as Norway Savings Bank, the Florida-based Never Say Never Foundation and the U.S. Paralympics.

He is now looking forward to the 2015 World Championships and the Paralympics, hopefully becoming the U.S. fastest sprinter in his class.

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