Endeavor Games provides new challenges for Rachel Salemink Army Reservist is recovering from hip surgery.

When Rachel Salemink heard Turnstone was hosting a local Endeavor Games, she had a new challenge. She’s already signed up for air rifle, swimming, track and field, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.

The event will be held April 21-23 as part of a newly created Endeavor Games Series, the nation’s largest multi-sport, multi-disability event. The Endeavor Games started in 2000 at the University of Central Oklahoma with the goal of providing children, adults and military service members an opportunity to display their talents in a competitive setting.

It’s an important opportunity for Fort Wayne and Salemink who loves testing herself. Though she might be one of the smallest athletes competing at 4-foot-101/2 inches, Salemink has one of the area’s largest athletic hearts. The 35-year-old mother of three boys is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves after serving in the National Guard. She was deployed to Iraq in 2005.

While serving at Fort Bliss, Texas in 2015, Salemink suffered a torn labrum in her hip, requiring surgery and shaving her femur in April. As part of her recovery, she was assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion to take part in the adaptive reconditioning program. There, she tried many sports and fell in love with wheelchair racing, shooting and archery.

More than that, she fell in love with her fellow competitors, their spirit, their ability and their willingness to try new things to overcome challenges. She was impressed by the people she met and the things they were able to accomplish.

“It’s probably the fact that they inspired me,” said Salemink. “Now it’s not because their drive and their heart makes me want to do more. They are always there supporting you. I didn’t know what to expect but I saw people who were running who have posthetic limbs and it was really cool. They inspired me but it was also my way to get fit in a healthy way.”

So now Salemink, who is a customer service representative for Lowes Home Improvement, is training for the Endeavor Games and the upcoming Department of Defense World Warrior Games. Besides raising her boys with her husband Christopher who is an Army Sergeant First Class, Salemink trains at Turnstone.

Like her Army service, she’s also still part of a team of people she believes in who support her and help her to become more.

“I just love the way that you can do sports and it’s still physically challenging and you’re just part of a team,” she said. “I know these people are my competitors and I’m going to be connected to them in a way a whole lot of people can’t be.”

Training also gave her an outlet to take control of her recovery. She’s pushing herself to return to her former standards and set new ones.

“She hits the floor running,” said Turnstone Director of Wellness and Adaptive Sports Director Michelle Kimpel. “She’s got a spunky personality and is a go-getter who juggles multiple roles. I can’t find anything that she hasn’t tried. I’m excited to see her compete.”

And the upcoming competitions also give Salemink a chance to change perceptions. She can find out what she is capable of doing and also what others can do.

“My goals are to meet new friends and to be inspired, just to compete freely,” she said. “They are just people and they want to be accepted no matter what. I think today’s society doesn’t accept people who aren’t the norm, and we need to change that. Just because I’m able-bodied doesn’t mean I don’t have a limitation or that you can see anybody walking down the street and they might have a Traumatic Brain Injury or a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A lot of people walk around just normal, and you never know.”

Until she’s fully recovered, Salemink gladly and thankfully chooses to participate alongside these special competitors.

“I changed my husband’s point of view because he was wondering why I want to do it, and I said you don’t have to have your limbs taken from you or be in a wheelchair to be able to compete and do things,” Salemink said. “You don’t have to live that way. You can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it and your heart to it and you take the time and really work at it, you can do whatever you want no matter who you are and what you look like.” <br>

<i> For more on local sports, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring. </i><br>

<center> Endeavor Games </center><br>

April 21-23 At Turnstone

Air rifle shooting, swimming, track and field, Boccia, goalball, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball.

Register at www.endeavorgames.com, deadline is April 7.