'Push Across America' Raised Funds, Awareness About Disabilities

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Paralympic athlete has been pushing his wheelchair across the entire country to raise money for a cause close to his heart.

CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell was there was Ryan Chalmers completed his journey in New York City – a moment 3,100 miles and 71 days in the making.

“This has been a grand finale for something that’s been amazing,” Chalmers said.

Central Park was the final stop on Chalmers’ 2 1/2-month “Push Across America” journey. It began April 6 in Los Angeles, and continued across 14 states and Washington, D.C., all the way to New York.

The purpose was to raise money and awareness about people with disabilities.

“We’re just athletes like anyone else,” he said, “and really, it’s just about passion and setting goals for yourself.”

Chalmers earned fans such as Hunter Holbrook, 5, of Cincinnati, along the way.

“He’s pretty cool,” Hunter said.

Chalmers, 24, first met Hunter in Cincinnati on his route. Like Chalmers, Hunter was born with spina bifida – preventing him from walking.

Hunter and his mother were so inspired by Chalmers’ message that they drove all the way from Ohio to watch him cross the finish line, “because I kind of love him,” Hunter said.

“We had to see him finish,” added Hunter’s mother, Geralyn Holbrook. “We had to cheer him on and support him.”

Chalmers’ appeal and dedication were also motivation for others, such as Patrick Flavin.

“Inspiration — it’s a challenge, and he met it,” said Flavin, of Yonkers. “It’s a long journey.”

The money Chalmers raises will be donated to an organization called Stay Focused – helping wheelchair-bound teens get certified for scuba diving.

Callouses and all, Chalmers said the pain was well worth the reward, and seeing faces like Hunter’s.

“I think I want to be that when I grow up,” Hunter said.

Added Chalmers: “Really, it’s just surreal. This moment, I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. ”

Chalmers will no head to the Cayman Islands to help run the stay focused diving program and to take some much needed time off. After that, it is back to the states to train for the 2016 Paralympic games.

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