Athlete of the Year: Sam Spore

Sam was born in East Africa with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. He received spinal and brain surgeries as an infant in Uganda. By the time he turned seven years old, his biological family was unable to continue caring for him. Sam lived at a children’s home near his village until his parents, Chad and Heidi Spore, adopted him at age twelve. He has had several surgeries since then: some to help him become more independent and some to help remove infections contracted in Uganda.

Soon after arriving to the United States, Sam was hospitalized for a blood clot and a femoral fracture. Thinking back on that, Sam remembers, “While that was a very difficult time for me and my family, God used it to introduce us to the great people at the Spina Bifida Association of Iowa. They then put us in touch with a man in the Cedar Valley who conducted adapted sports camps. I attended my very first adapted sports camp that summer! That was more than 8 years ago.”

The thing that makes Sam most passionate about adaptive sports is seeing people who have never had the chance to be in a team sport before being given the chance to participate, joke around, and have fun with other people like them. Sam played basketball with the Rolling Panthers until Sportability dissolved and then joined Adaptive Sports Iowa’s Iowa Grizzlies for all his years of eligibility. Sam’s favorite memory from his time with ASI was during one game against the Jr. Hawks in wheelchair basketball. “We were down by a lot of points, and two of our best players had been pulled out of the game for a break. I did a great job of leading my team and starting a comeback. We came back to win the game!” Although he no longer meets the age requirements, Sam is still involved in the team as a student assistant coach. With ASI’s equipment lending program, he also participated in track for two years in high school until he aged out of eligibility to compete last year.

Outside of his adaptive sports involvements, Sam is a senior at Union High School in La Porte City. He loves to play percussion in marching and concert band and sing tenor in the school choir. In his free time, he likes to draw, write songs, play ukulele, shoot hoops in the backyard and play Settlers of Catan with his siblings. Every weekday afternoon he can be found working at a nursing home in La Porte City. After graduation, he would like to continue helping people, though he is not yet sure in what setting.

If Sam had the chance to talk to others with a similar disability, he would say, “Get involved. They should just give adapted sports a try because I think they will really like it.” Sometimes people with disabilities are only seen as ‘a guy in a wheelchair’ or ‘a girl who uses crutches’. Sam wants people to see past those things and get to know that he is “a friendly guy, and I can do anything I put my mind to.”

Congratulations again, Sam, for your accomplishments as the 2023 Sean Runyan Athlete of the Year! We thank you for the impact you have made in your teammates’ lives and look forward to seeing where life takes you.