Dorrance Wins Eight Gold Medals at Paralympic Games

Zach with new legs
Zach Dorrance with his new legs. Photo courtesy of Bill Dorrance.

By Linda Lane

It’s not easy to win a gold medal in every track and field event that one enters. It’s even more difficult to achieve that when wearing a prosthetic foot.

That’s what 10-year-old Zachary Dorrance did in eight different categories – eight gold medals in everything he entered at the Endeavor Games for Athletes with Physical Disabilities in Edmond, OK in June.

He ran the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter dashes and competed in the long jump, discus, javelin and shotput events. He managed to bring home a gold medal in every single category, competing against 4-15 other kids with similar disabilities in the eight contests.

The Endeavor Games began in 2000 at the University of Central Oklahoma’s campus for Athletes with Physical Disabilities to provide children, adults and military service members with physical disabilities an opportunity to display their talents in a competitive setting against individuals with similar disabilities. Athletes can compete in various sports such as archery, air rifle shooting, cycling, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, track and field and wheelchair basketball and softball.

Zach was born with “fibular hemimelia,” the absence of the fibula in the calf of the leg,. His parents, Bill and Wendy Dorrance, made the difficult decision and chose to do a “Syme amputation” to remove the right foot before his second birthday. Each year since the amputation, Zach has gone to Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids for an updated prosthetic for his leg. This past year, he received two new prosthetics: a running blade, which is a spring-style prosthetic, and a sports foot, which has a fake foot and allows for better side-to-side and backward motions. The two prosthetics are significantly different and both are dramatically lighter, weighing only 1.5 pounds instead of the 4.5 pounds of previous prosthetics. Zach wore the running blade at the Endeavor Games.

“The Mary Free Bed team worked with Amputee Blade Runners (ABR) to provide 6-7 kids with running blades. They built the prosthetic legs within a week’s time. This would normally take much longer and require going back and forth for repeated fittings and adjustments,” Bill Dorrance said. “When Zach got his new running blade, he told me, ‘Dad, now I can keep up with my buddies on the playground!’”

“For those who live with limb issues and need prosthetics, Mary Free Bed is changing people’s lives. I’m so thankful for what they’ve done for Zach,” Bill said.

ABR is a non-profit group from Nashville, Tenn. that came to Grand Rapids to work with Mary Free Bed. The prosthetic legs are made of carbon fiber and would cost nearly $10,000 per leg. With the costs of prosthetics often not covered by insurance, ABR was able to reduce the cost of the prosthetics by getting the materials donated by Fillauer, a manufacturer from Chattanooga, Tenn. ABR offers a scholarship programs to work with both children and adults to get amputees up, active, and pain-free with high-tech prosthetics.

Ruth Dorrance, Zach’s grandmother, and her husband, Bill, also attended the Endeavor Games to watch Zach compete. Ruth taught Home Economics at Vicksburg Middle School for 20 years and retired in 2007. She also had an art store in Vicksburg for five years.

“The Endeavor Games was an incredible event, just awesome. One little girl was missing both her feet and she was dancing the entire time! It was just so inspiring to see these kids with disabilities who refused to let that slow them down,” Ruth Dorrance said.

Zach’s dad, Bill Dorrance, owns Galesburg Ford and lives with his family in Richland. Dorrance family has been in Vicksburg for many years; Bill graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1989. Bill’s dad, also Bill, graduated from VHS in 1967 and Zach’s great-grandparents, LaVon and Hi, graduated from VHS in 1943.

Zach has two older brothers, Alex and Nick. All three boys play hockey and baseball. His new running blade and sports foot have boosted his confidence on the playground and his interest in competing. Zach recently joined a travel baseball team for the first time.

“We don’t treat him any differently than our other two boys. Zero. We just never have. As far as we’re concerned there’s nothing different about him. He’s got to keep up with his two older brothers!” Bill Dorrance said. “It was unbelievable to watch Zach perform, and even if he hadn’t won a thing, I’d have been so proud of him. The perseverance and drive he showed to go down on those fields and compete was fabulous.”

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