Help former player/wounded warrior with a new goal

Folks, here is an e-mail I received today from former Missouri State women’s basketball coach Cheryl Burnett about a player who was on her 2001 NCAA Final Four team. The e-mail also includes a story on Kinga Kiss-Johnson, who is trying to compete in the World Para Archery Championship in Bangkok in November. I did not write this story; I am including it for background.


A quick summary: Kinga was born in Romania, played college basketball in Missouri, joined the U.S. Army, and was severely injured in Afghanistan in 2007. She is now a U.S. citizen, and needs some financial help to afford to compete in her new athletic challenge, archery.

Below is a link to Kinga’s web site, and I am also including Coach Burnett’s e-mail/Kinga’s background story in full after that. If  you have a few dollars to spare, please consider supporting Kinga’s goal. Thanks!

http://www.gofundme.com/kinga

Dear Lady Bears, friends, media types,

Kinga Kiss-Johnson is one of ours.  Kinga played on our 2001 Final Four team.  Kinga was injured while serving the US Army in Afghanistan.  (Read story below.)  To rehab from her injuries she started archery.  Kinga continues to make us proud as she has already qualified to go to the World Para Archery Championships in Bangkok, Thailand this November.  But Kinga must raise $6,000 for her own travel expenses by September 15th  You can go online to gofundme.com/kinga. Please help such a wonderful human being.  Anything will help $5, 50, 500, 500.  Please help and please call one person to donate.

Story on Kinga Kiss-Johnson, taken from Clarendon (S.C.) Citizen:

Kinga Kiss-Johnson is a warrior on the battlefield and in life. She currently resides in Augusta, Ga. as a retired sergeant veteran working as the lead manager at JP Morgan Chase initiative.  Kinga has competed in the Army Warrior Games in archery, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.

From a small village in the mountains, Miercurea-Ciuc, Romania, Kinga’s parents wanted something better for her. So they placed her in an athletic school at age 6.  Kinga had seen communism collapse in Romania and cars with UNICEF and USA printed on their sides deliver humanitarian air to her struggling country. As a child, she said she was thinking: “One day, I will be the one helping others.”

Kinga played for the Romanian junior national team.  At 18, Kinga moved to Hungary to better her life. Then Kinga arrived in the USA on a basketball scholarship in 1998 at Jefferson Community College in Hillsboro, Mo. She barely spoke English at the time.

She would go to the college computer lab for assistance. It was there that Kinga met her husband, Bill, whom she would marry in 2001. She was then recruited by Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) in Springfield to play basketball, and at 6-7 is the tallest player in program history. She made it with the team to the NCAA Final Four in 2001 in St. Louis.

In July 2006, Kinga joined the Army and headed to Afghanistan with the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion. Thanks to her employer, Walmart, she was able to take military leave of absence.
 Kinga was the tallest service member in her U.S. Army company when she took the oath of citizenship to the United States in 2007 at Bagram Airfield.

She sustained a spinal-cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and left and right hip injuries in October 2007 while deployed to Afghanistan. Her vehicle was involved in an accident when the truck she was in had to avoid a vehicle that was sent airborne by an improvised explosive device. Kinga was the turret acting as a gunner.

Kinga has a fused and replaced vertebrae and a limited range of mobility. She began playing basketball and shooting archery from a wheelchair.  Kinga made sure that everyone understood the meaning of “Army Strong” in the 2011 Warrior Games, earning a gold medal alongside her Army teammates.

Her wheelchair basketball team, is the Augusta, Ga., Bulldogs of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
These sports gave her back a part of her life.  Archery allowed Kinga to concentrate on “what I can do, not on what I can’t.”

Crossroads Wounded Warrior Archery Foundation provided Kinga with her first bow. Scott Dault of Summerton, S.C., the founder of The Crossroads Wounded Warrior Archery Foundation, said about Kinga, “I was impressed by her fierce determination and competitive spirit.”

Upon receipt of the bow, Kinga made a vow to win a gold at the Paralympics. First, she hopes to compete at The World Para Archery Championships, which are in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2013.

She must pay for her trip, which will cost $6,000.  With such a short time to raise the funds, Kinga has turned to the public asking for help. With the help from the Crossroads Wounded Warrior Archery Foundation, a fund has been established at the Bank of Clarendon, P.O. Box 908, Summerton, S.C. 29148.  Help can also be given online at gofundme.com/kinga.

While she is practicing and saving for her trip to Thailand, Kinga is working part-time serving her community and people with disabilities. She is also a volunteer with Champions Made from Adversity, where she teaches and coaches adaptive sports for people with disabilities.

“My No. 1 goal is to be the best I can and be a role model for veterans that are still at home after their injuries and don’t know how to _ or just don’t have the desire to _ get out and go on,” Kinga said.

About mvoepel

Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women's college basketball and other college sports for ESPN.com.
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