Paralympian Helton gets new wheels - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Paralympian Helton gets new wheels

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Tucson, AZ -

Local wheelchair rugby player Derrick Helton, a paraplegic husband, new father and student got a generous surprise on Saturday.

The wheels he's been using to compete internationally were getting a bit rusty.

Challenged Athletes Foundation's presented Helton with a grant Saturday that will allow him to purchase a new top end rugby wheelchair and continue his journey to represent the U.S. in the 2014 International Wheelchair Rugby Federation World Championships and 2016 Summer Paralympic games in Rio.

CAF's annual Access for Athletes grant program helps paraplegic athletes obtain equipment, or help with coaching, training/competition and travel expenses when financial obstacles exist. 

Helton's life changed forever when tumors were discovered on his spinal cord during a routine  hearing test for the Marine Corp.

He was confined to a wheelchair in September 2004 when complications arose during surgery to remove one of the tumors doctor says was caused by a rare genetic defect.

Derrick suffers from paralysis in his legs, upperbody and face, and his hearing and vision have also decreased. 

When Helton rediscovered sports it helped him overcome his depression and became a turning point in his life. 

"I began playing Wheelchair rugby in 2006 and soon after went to play with University of Arizona and Tucson Teams," said Helton.

In 2007 he  was selected as a member of the first ever USA developmental squad which lead to an alternate spot for 2008 Paralympic team and in 2009 made the USA full squad for the first time.

Helton has made the team every year since. He is one of is one of 11 grant recipients in Tucson, 15 from Arizona and 1,457 athletes across the world are receiving 2014 grants.

Copyright 2014 Challenged Athletes Foundation. All rights reserved.

David Kelly contributed to this story.

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