YOUTH PROFILE: Teen battles back to make national team

LIMA — It is perhaps appropriate that Kelli Anne Stallkamp plays defense on her sled hockey team.

Kelli Anne, 17, has been dealt her knocks in life. She was born with spina bifida and has been battling the disease ever since. However, just like a defensive player, known for its hard hitting, she has always fought back.

This past December, Kelli Anne was called up to the USA National sled hockey team. She began playing for the team in January. The sport is growing exponentially and will be a demonstration sport in the 2018 Paralympics. It is expected the sport will become an official Paralympic sport in the 2022 games.

The sport demands a lot of time, and Kelli Anne is home-schooled through the Ohio Connections Academy so her schedule can be juggled more easily. They play at least once a month, and a lot of travel is required. The team will be in North Carolina in March and Philadelphia in May. In the meantime, Kelli Anne also plays on several other teams. She also works out three times a week at Bad Dog Gym in Lima.

“There is a lot of traveling and a lot of camps,” Kelli Anne said. “There is a camp or we are playing every weekend.”

Kelli Anne said she likes playing defense because “I like hitting.” She tried several other sports, but found her niche with sled hockey.

“I was swimming and I started wheelchair tennis,” Kelli Anne said. “I tried wheelchair racing, but I didn’t get real excited about those.”

Kelli Anne also plays with an elite team, the Blue Jackets Sled Team, which is sponsored by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.

Kelli Anne is a junior and plans to graduate soon. She is hoping to attend a two-year college, possibly to study respiratory therapy. She also volunteers at the Shawnee Day Nursery School and St. Rita’s Medical Center. She hopes she can be a light of hope for other children with disabilities to never give up.

“I want to encourage others with physical disabilities to try out and find something they like,” Kelli Anne said.

Kelli Anne is the daughter of Scott and Jeanna Stallkamp.

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Kelli Anne Stallkamp, second from the left, poses with other USA National Sled Hockey team members after a recent match. Anne Stallkamp, second from the left, poses with other USA National Sled Hockey team members after a recent match. Submitted photo

By Lance Mihm

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Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.