Man helped daughter overcome disability

Man helped daughter overcome disability

When Chris Roney wanted to take his six children to a zoo in South Carolina, the managers tried to discourage them from coming.

Raquel, who is paralyzed from the hips down, gets around in a wheelchair. The zoo was not wheelchair accessible, staff told them.

No problem, Roney thought.

Roney and his children went anyway, and he carried Raquel the entire time.

Roney often carries Raquel up several flights of stairs when there are no elevators and has even carried her up stairs at water parks.

He doesn't want her to miss out on any fun. Plus, he stays in shape, he said.

The Urbana man was recently named King Dad by the University of Illinois Dad's Association.

He received a plaque and hat, and was introduced to Illini fans during the UI Dad's Weekend football game.

"I didn't think my dad realizes what a great dad he is," said Raquel Roney, who nominated her dad by writing an essay about him.

When she was 12 years old Raquel was paralyzed from the hips down as a result of a car accident. After the accident, Raquel said, her father encouraged her to participate in sports to stay active and healthy.

She considered signing up for a basketball camp for people in wheelchairs. But she had never been around people in wheelchairs before and was unsure about going.

"He asked me to put my fear aside. He told me, 'You might learn from them.'"

And she did.

Raquel said he encouraged her to take up water skiing for disabled people. She did and has competed and won several water-skiing competitions. She was recently asked to join the U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team and compete in the world championship games in Australia this spring.

"Life dealt her a challenge. She rose to it. She doesn't let challenges get her down," Chris Roney said.

Raquel, 20, is now a psychology major at the UI.

When stressed about an impending test, she will call her dad.

"Just talking to him helps me be able to study again," she said.

He helps her realize it won't be the end of the world if she does not perform perfectly on a test.

Roney said he gets his parenting skills from his mother, who studied home economics at the UI and raised nine children.

Roney, a family therapist, said the most important things he learned from his mother are the ability to listen and show empathy.

Also: getting comfortable with making mistakes and learning from them.

That's advice Raquel said her father has passed on to her.

"He taught me to learn from my mistakes, not dwell on them," she said.

Roney has five other children: Chris Jr., 22; Sophie, 15; Andrew, 12; Audrey, 10; and Laurel, 6.

"He makes clear his greatest achievement is being a good father," Raquel said.

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