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Employee Spotlight: Chris Mackey

Welcome to our new Employee Spotlight series, which takes you behind the scenes to meet the people who make what we do possible. For the next five weeks, we will feature a diverse group of staff members who all have one thing in common – a passion for Lakeshore. 

Today, we kick off our series by shining a light on Chris Mackey.

Since joining the Lakeshore team as an Information Specialist for the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) in 2016, Chris Mackey is continually impressed by the talented people who work here.

“The level of talent and commitment here is impressive. These are some of the smartest people I have ever met who are also passionate about equal access to recreation and sports, and that focus on equality is what is important to me.”

Chris is a former “Army brat” and a transplant from North Carolina. Go Panthers! He’s spent his career ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to health promotion and wellness opportunities. He earned his degree in therapeutic recreation from East Carolina University in 2000 and was an ISSA certified fitness trainer for a brief period as his work increasingly focused on inclusive fitness. For 16 years, Chris worked for the North Carolina Office on Disability and Health (NCODH) where he partnered with health promotion professionals and disability organizations to increase their capacity to focus on inclusion and health respectively. His work extended into the medical, dental, public health and fitness fields and several times, offered him an opportunity to develop a longstanding work relationship with NCHPAD. Over the years he has grown an interest in being a disability rights advocate and is working to become a certified Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator. 

Now as part of the NCHPAD team, and much like his previous professional endeavors, his work focuses on ensuring that public health organizations have the ability to include people with disabilities.

What does working at Lakeshore mean to you?
For me it’s about social justice. Both NCHPAD and Lakeshore Foundation exist to ensure that everyone has a chance to be physically active, healthy and gain all the benefits that I know come from participating in sports. I remember hearing about Lakeshore Foundation when I played youth wheelchair basketball. There are very few organizations in the country that do what Lakeshore does. It is one of those places that sets the gold standard for adapted recreation, fitness and sports programming. This is where you go if you want to learn how to do it right.

What’s your favorite thing to do for physical activity at Lakeshore?
Swimming is my primary activity. I have five siblings, and all of us were on the local swim team growing up. I also like wheelchair basketball. I need to do both more often!

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Well, it’s not advice in the traditional sense, but I think just having people around me—family and friends—who didn’t see my spina bifida as a reason to treat me differently or have low expectations. That was a positive influence.

How do you like to spend your free time?
When I have time I enjoy traveling. Like most, I would like to do it more often. Cathedral Caverns has been fun Alabama destination. It’s been a while since I traveled overseas, but I enjoy experiencing other countries as a person with a disability. When I traveled to Greece to watch the 2004 Paralympics, I met a local shop owner who told me how Athenians with physical disabilities were finally able to see the Parthenon for the very first time because it had never been made accessible to them until the Games. Another good example of the power of disability sport!

What’s a fun fact about you?
When my brother was stationed in Hawaii, I got to swim in a shark cage and see 10 to 12 foot sandbar and Galapagos sharks up close. Related to adapted sports—for several years I played on a youth wheelchair basketball team with Stephanie Wheeler. She is a two-time Paralympic gold medalist in the sport of wheelchair basketball, head coach of the gold medal wining Rio 2016 U.S. Paralympic Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, and head coach of the University of Illinois Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team.

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would it be?
Chewy O’s. These were a staple on long trips and at swim meets growing up. I suppose they’re most like blondies but with chocolate chips, Cheerios and marshmallows on top. Then it’s all covered in sweetened condensed milk. I know, not exactly a low calorie option.

Check back next week as we spotlight another Lakeshore employee. Who might it be?