MELROSE (CBS) – A young athlete who has already shown great strength received the gift of a lifetime. Even in a swarm of boys playing basketball, Ryan Feeney stands out. That’s because the Melrose 4th grader never stops smiling. And watching that handsome, happy face – it might take a moment to realize Ryan has one leg.
“We tried a rod surgery when he was one. That failed unfortunately. We just decided that amputation would be the best fit for Ryan,” his mother Jill Feeney explained.
Even as a toddler, Ryan took neurofibromatosis 1 and tibial dysplasia in stride. Now Noelle Lambert, with the Born to Run Foundation, wants to make sure he never slows down.
Thursday night, the former UMass Lowell lacrosse star – turned paralympian – donated an expensive prosthesis to help Ryan go faster – and have fun.
The running blade will of course help Ryan when he’s playing basketball (as well as football, soccer, and baseball), but there are parts of this gift you can’t see – that he’ll enjoy for the rest of his life.
“That was the most important thing for me, I needed to have that confidence. Obviously there were days I was thinking to myself I’ll be able to do this. Seeing Ryan today running with all his friends, like he doesn’t have an amputation, like he has two legs. Him thinking he’s just like them is so important, but he’s also very special,” Lambert said.
This gift isn’t just a victory for Ryan – he celebrates with his biggest fan – and his very best friend.
“It’s mostly my brother. My brother always helps me. A few days ago he helped me practice a little more for basketball. He keeps me going; mostly it’s my brother,” Ryan said with a smile.
“There’s no limits to his world. We’re so happy Ryan is able to do everything he wants to do,” Jill Feeney added.
The Born to Run Foundation was founded by 23-year-old Lambert of Manchester, NH, who lost her leg in a moped accident on Martha’s Vineyard in 2016. She is a former Division 1 college athlete who played lacrosse at the UMass Lowell and established the foundation to help young amputees obtain specialized athletic prosthetic devices so that they can live fulfilling lives. She is now a member of the U.S. Paralympic team and is currently training for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo in the 100-meter race in Track and Field.
On November 13, 2019, Noelle set a new U.S. record at the World Paralympic Championship games in Dubai running the 100-meter in 16.31 seconds.