While studying physical therapy at Universidad Viña del Mar, in Chile’s Valparaiso region, Felipe Herrera, 28 years old, discovered two key things. First, there’s no shortage of sports programs for Chile’s disabled youth during the week. Second, disabled young people have very few options on weekends.
So Herrera and several friends created Sports Unlimited, a group that each weekend brings dozens of disabled youth together to play soccer, volleyball, tennis and other sports in the Pacific coastal city. In October 2013, Sports Unlimited led a nearly seven-hour, 1.2-mile mountain hike. At the top of the mountain, a 16-year-old boy took off his shoes and prosthesis—and shouted with joy. The moment confirmed some key beliefs for Herrera: “There are no real disabilities, and we can all participate in society—if given the opportunity.”
He wants to expand Sports Unlimited across Chile, in partnership with business and philanthropic organizations. But in the meantime, Herrera faces a key academic challenge: finishing a 10-month physical therapy internship and graduating in 2015. Felipe Herrera will, then, have all the ingredients to drive enduring progress for Chile’s disabled youth—and, certainly, the rest of his country.