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Paralympic gold medal winner visits Richland school

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Rachel Farkas | Pine Creek Journal
Paralympian sled hockey player Dan McCoy shows off his gold medal from the Sochi Winter Olympic games to Richland Elementary kindergarteners and first graders at an assembly on April 17.
Rachel Farkas | Pine Creek Journal
First grade students at Richland Elementary School hold signs welcoming Paralympian gold medalist Dan McCoy to their school. McCoy, a Fox Chapel graduate and United States sled hockey player, visited Richland on April 17 to talk about his experience in Sochi and overcoming challenges of being born with spina bifida.

Hometown hero Dan McCoy paid a visit to the students at Pine-Richland's Richland Elementary School last week to spread the message that all people can follow their dreams with some hard work and perseverance.

McCoy, a 2012 Fox Chapel Area graduate and Cheswick native, won a gold medal in the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games with the USA Paralympic sled hockey team. He plays left wing.

Lois Buhay, a Richland learning-support teacher, and Judy Wagner, Richland physical therapist, organized McCoy's visit to the elementary school as part of a yearlong series of guest readers who have disabilities.

Buhay said they want to expose children to people with disabilities to show them they're more alike than different and that anyone can set goals and reach them.

“We've emphasized to students that what matters is what's in your heart,” Wagner added.

McCoy embodied that message as he talked about his journey being born with spina bifida and overcoming the physical limitations of the condition.

“If you want to do something, go for it,” he urged the kindergartners through third-graders during the assembly.

His mother, Angie McCoy, who accompanied him to the visit, said when Dan was 8, he set the goal to become a Paralympian.

As parents, they thought the goal was a great way to make Dan more independent but never realized he actually would get to that point at age 20.

”I never thought as a mom that my little boy would travel around the world, but he did,” Angie McCoy said.

Dan McCoy told students about his experience at Sochi. One of the more notable things is how much USA swag he received. He left with two bags and returned with seven packed full of T-shirts, jackets and other gear.

“I feel like Captain America when I go out now,” Dan McCoy said.

He also demonstrated how his sled hockey gear worked by skating around the school's gymnasium, where the assembly was held, in a roller sled and shooting pucks into nets at either side of the gym, much to the delight of students.

This is Dan McCoy's third visit to a school. Since he returned from the Paralympic Winter Games, he visited two Fox Chapel Area schools and then came to Richland after Wagner, who knows the McCoy family through church, reached out to him.

“It's been really cool to see the support,” said Dan McCoy, who's attending the University of Pittsburgh and majoring in rehabilitation science and sports medicine.

Angie McCoy said even with her son's busy schedule, they hope to visit more schools to spread the message and tell McCoy's story. Any schools or organizations interested in having him visit can email his mother at

“We really know how blessed we've been and realize now that we need to pay it forward,” Angie McCoy said. “These kids now see disability in a different light.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or

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