Potomac Larry Chloupek is training to run the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on March 16.
Not too amazing for many athletes — except that Chloupek has only one leg and he will run the marathon using crutches. However, for this long-time Potomac resident, no challenge seems too difficult. He has already completed five half marathons. He is a Paralympian in volleyball. In 1996, he carried the Olympic torch in advance of the Atlanta summer games.
Chloupek will be honored at the “Evening of Special Love” 30th Anniversary Gala on Feb. 2 for his inspirational commitment to the organization, Special Love, a mid-Atlantic charity that sponsors camps and provides a community of support for area children with cancer and their families. Camp Fantastic and BRASS Camp are two of the many weekend camps for families, teens and young adults held by Special Love to give patients, siblings and parents a place to share conversations about their experiences. The non-profit organization was founded by Tom and Sheila Baker in 1983 to honor their daughter who lost her battle to lymphoma. The Bakers hoped to give other children with cancer a chance to enjoy traditional camp activities. Special Love now impacts more than 1,000 people annually through almost 20 programs each year.
Chloupek lost a leg to bone cancer at the age of 7 more than 40 years ago. With the support of his close-knit family and the encouragement of a huge network of friends, he realized he was capable of continuing his athletic endeavors and participating fully in any activity he desired. ‘‘There were no special accommodations given to me, so I just got out there and shot hoops and played football, just like the other kids,” he said.
After graduation from Churchill High School and American University, he began working for the Federal government and is now is the management liaison director for the Office of the Director of NIH. He returned to Churchill High to serve as baseball coach for many years — and also coaches for other Potomac youth sports organizations including the Potomac Adaptive Sports Association, which he helped to found. Chloupek chairs the Advisory Board of the Potomac Community Center — and serves on the Special Love Board.
Fellow board member, Jill Lavin confirms how she continues to be amazed by Chloupek. “He has touched so many lives working with kids, coaching basketball and baseball teams and heading the Potomac Community Center Board along with a million other things. I do not know how he does it all and he still looks like he is 30-something. If I were going to use one word to describe Larry, it’s inspiration. I think he has done more for this community than anyone I have ever met and deserves multiple awards.”
To Chloupek, volunteering and helping others is second nature. He sets a positive example for children with cancer as director of the Young Adults with Cancer (YAC) program and he also serves as a counselor at BRASS Camp, Special Love’s week-long camp for cancer siblings where he is often a frequent target of pranks. “There was nothing like this when I was going through my cancer at age 7,” said Chloupek. “I had never met another amputee. I felt like I was the only one out there with one leg. These camps are meaningful to the child with cancer and their families because of the network of other individuals who have gone through the same experiences.”
“Larry is the ultimate role model for a child with cancer,” said Special Love CEO Dave Smith. “His accomplishments as a cancer survivor are an inspiration to kids who are still in the midst of treatment or have beaten cancer and want to know what comes next.”
The Special Love Gala will be held on Feb. 2. To honor Larry Chloupek and to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Special Love, plan to attend the Gala. All are welcome. To find out more about the organization or to donate, go to www.specialove.org. or call 888-930-2707.