Inspiring story of a Gold medalist Chicago wheelchair archer

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Army veteran and gold medalist wheelchair archer Babette Peyton shares inspiring story.
32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games, June 25- June 30, 2012, Richmond, Virginia.??Photographer: Ken Holt. Photo Courtesy Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

Chicago’s acclaimed archer Babette Peyton gained the hearts and support of many when she won numerous awards and accolades all while riding her wheelchair. However, things weren’t always smooth for Peyton.

Before her wheelchair-archery legacy, Babette was once a member of the armed forces. But during a military training exercise, she suffered a progressive, stroke-like injury that left her paralyzed on her left side. Then, more challenges hit.

“[I was] in and out of hospitals. My mother passed, my father passed, my oldest brother, my youngest brother [passed], and so they put me in a nursing home,” Babette explained. “And then, they started talking about putting me in hospice. So I thought, a hospice is some place where people go to die.”

At one point even, the veteran even experienced homelessness. In fact, Babette was so depressed that she wrote her own obituary.

But the U.S. Army veteran has since found a unique calling that likely saved her life – wheelchair archery.

“[At the VA hospital,] they told me about the Military Paralympic Sports Camp, and the OD said they would pay for me to go up there for a week, and an aide to go with me.”

During that week in Rhode Island, Babette took part in every sport. But, she was reluctant when faced with her final task – archery.

“So I’m like, ‘I can’t do this. I just can’t. Everybody is going to be using their arms. This is a two-arm sport,'” she recalled.

So, instead of using her hand, she tried pulling the string back with her teeth and a piece of leather.

“Then [the coach] said ‘do you have any dentures?’ I said ‘no,'” Peyton said. “He said ‘that would be flying out first!'”

On her first two tries, she hit the bullseye.

“I got two bullseyes! I said, ‘that’s God telling me I’m not dying,'” Peyton said. “Thank you God, I can still live. I might have to do different things, but I can still live!”

And since then, everything went uphill for Babette. In her four years competing in archery, Babette Peyton has racked up more than 60 medals and competed all over the country. Now she’s recognized as one of the best.

“When I started doing this, I wasn’t thinking about the Olympics or Paralympics. I was just thinking about how it can save my life, and it gave me something to do,” she said. “And I could do it well.”

Now, Babette is encouraging everyone – veterans, people living with disabilities, and anyone who is facing life’s challenges.

“For anybody that is doing a comeback, just remember, your comeback is going to be better than it was before if you just stay with God and just shine,” she said.

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