As Chuck Melton put on his uniform in preparation for the wheelchair rugby gold-medal match at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, his son, Blake, also suited up in patriotic attire - an American flag bodysuit, a Captain America t-shirt, and a red and blue mohawk wig.
Blake Melton dressed up to cheer his father on in Rio.
“He was the hit of the crowd,” said Melton. “Everybody in Rio loved him and wanted their picture taken with him. It was awesome.”
Accompanying Blake in crowd were his two sisters, Bailey and Allison, and his mother, Kelly. Using cowbells in addition to their voices, the whole family cheered on Melton as Team USA secured the silver medal in the double-overtime match.
“I remember looking at our children and seeing their faces in awe of his accomplishment,” said Melton’s wife, Kelly. “Bailey, who is our super competitive child, was crying as she was overcome with emotion and she announced that she wanted to play softball in 2024 for Team USA.”
As a stay-at-home father, family is very important to Melton - his teammates even nicknamed him “Papa Melton.”
On a typical day, Melton wakes up between 5 and 6 a.m., sees his three teenagers off to school, then hits the gym to train for the next eight hours. Once 3 p.m. comes around, Melton sends his kids off to their respective practices, and concludes the evening by helping them with homework.
Melton credits his chaotic schedule with giving him an edge when it comes to understanding the difficulty of balancing school and sports for his kids.
“‘It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it,’ he says,” noted Kelly. “Chuck is up and gone to the gym before I’m even out of bed. He does two or three training sessions per day so that’s three round trip drives to town just for training, then throw in a softball game or dance competition.”
Allison is a part of the high school dance team, while Bailey alternates between volleyball and softball, providing a full year-round schedule for the Melton crew. As Allison and Blake note as one of their favorite things about their father, he always gives them the attention they need and tries to make it to Allison’s and Bailey’s sporting events despite his intense schedule with rugby and training.
Contrary to his intensity on the court, Melton offers a quiet reassurance at his children’s sporting events. When his daughters look for him in the stands, he offers an affirming nod or small cheer of encouragement.
“No matter what, he believes in me and will make me laugh if I'm upset about something that happened,” said Bailey.
The start of this formidable bond began when Melton found wheelchair rugby.
For the first five years after acquiring a C7 spinal cord injury in a diving accident, Melton was in a self-described “bad state.” Not going to any type of therapy sessions and living an unhealthy lifestyle, his wife told him that he need to finally find a healthy outlet.
“Rugby has really changed my life in that aspect,” said Melton. “It gave me an outlet rather than taking it out on my family. I was so distant from the kids and Kelly at that time. The relationship with them really changed when I found rugby - it’s really been a blessing.”
Bailey, Chuck and Allison at the Murphy Challenge.
As part of Melton’s training, he picked up CrossFit and did the Murph Challenge for last couple of years with his family cheering him on. Allison and Bailey mentioned wanting to try it with him someday. This past year, Melton made the executive decision to sign them up.
Side by side, the trio trekked through the challenge and pushed each other to the finish line.
“The whole time I was thinking ‘If he can do this, then I can do this,’” recalled Bailey. “I could look over at him when I thought about giving up, and somehow the look on his face would be saying ‘You aren't the type of person to give up so just keep going,’ then I found the ability to push myself through it.”
Known for being humble, the achievements Papa Melton likes to brag about are those of his children. Watching his children’s progression is the best part about being a father to him.
Through wheelchair rugby, it’s made him a better father and teacher, as it’s gifted him with the ability to provide his children with a different outlook and direction.
“Them living through this [impairment] with me and life experiences - they’ve seen some of the struggles that I went through and it’s been really beneficial,” said Melton.
“He works very hard at never using his disability as an excuse, because he never wants our kids to make excuses as to why they can’t achieve their goals,” said Kelly. “He never takes ‘no’ for an answer, and in turn, expects the same from our children.”