U.S. Paralympics Tra... Features Noelle Lambert Striv...

Noelle Lambert Strives To Use Her Experiences To Support Fellow Amputees

By Sheridan Powell | Aug. 10, 2020, 10:45 a.m. (ET)

Noelle Lambert hugs an opponent after a race at the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships.

Noelle Lambert is set to compete in her first Paralympic Games just a few years since stepping onto the track for the first time. She played collegiate lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Boston, and wasn’t quite ready to hang up her active lifestyle upon graduation. But more importantly, she felt called to be able to support fellow amputees in the same way that she once received help and support. 

Lambert had just completed her freshman year lacrosse season at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Boston when she was in a moped accident with a friend, which resulted in the amputation of her left leg.  The accident did little to slow Lambert down, however. Her recovery was done at full speed - she redshirted the 2017 season and was cleared to play in March of 2018, just a year after receiving her new running blade. 

During her recovery, Lambert attended a camp for amputees that would unknowingly shape her future. It was there that she was first introduced to Femita Ayanbeku, a fellow amputee and member of the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field team. 

“I had these thoughts in the back of my head after my accident, I really wanted to get into Paralympic sports. She was the first connection I made,” Lambert explained. 

Fast forward a few years, following a successful return to lacrosse and her college graduation. Lambert wasn’t ready to hang anything up, and wanted to continue her competitive and active lifestyle. 

“The day after I graduated, I bought a pair of blocks and got to work. I signed myself up for the soonest race I could, which was in Arizona at the Desert Challenge Games.” 

So Lambert began to train, with only one month before her first race. But just a month later, Lambert finished first in her classification group, catching the attention of coaches and athletes alike. In fact, she saw a familiar face in Femita Ayanbeku. 

“Femita kind of took me under her wing. She introduced me to her coach in Boston, and I’ve been training with them ever since,” said Lambert. “I really owe all my success to Femita. It was her and her coaches because they were the ones who believed in me and pushed me. She’s really been my mentor through this entire experience.”

From there, Lambert continued to progress. She qualified for the 2020 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Team, and made her first World Championship appearance in 2019. There, Lambert took fourth place in the 100m dash. 

Despite the work she’s putting in on the track, Lambert is doing something even more important off of it. It was shortly after her amputation that Lambert got the idea to start the Born to Run Foundation. She explained that her own experiences quickly taught her how expensive specialized prosthetics are, and how frequently insurance companies don’t help cover the costs. 

“To be able to play lacrosse again, I needed a running blade. To be able to go to the beach with my friends, I needed a waterproof prosthetic,” Lambert explained. 

Fortunately for Lambert, two separate foundations stepped in and donated those necessary prosthetics for her. The Challenged Athletes Foundation, headquartered in San Diego, CA, provided Lambert with the running prosthetic she needed to continue playing lacrosse competitively. The Heather Abbott Foundation, founded by a Boston Marathon survivor, donated Lambert a waterproof prosthetic. 

“I really wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for them and all of the outside support that I got,” Lambert explained. “I knew that it was something that I wanted to be able to do. I wanted to be able to give back to others and I wanted to use my voice and my experiences to help other amputees that are going through similar experiences.” 

And thus, the Born to Run Foundation was born. Although Lambert and her family had the idea almost immediately, it took some time to take the necessary steps to form the foundation and get it up and running. In 2018, they made their first donation. With the help of Lambert’s friends and family who sit on the board, help with fundraising, and more, the Born to Run Foundation continues to grow in size and support. 

“I have not done any of it by myself,” Lambert laughed. “And I definitely don’t think I could have done any of it by myself.” 

The Born to Run Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to providing adolescent amputees with the specific prosthetics that they need in order to continue their active lifestyles. They host fundraising events throughout the year, allowing them to present kids with prosthetics free of charge. 

In a normal year, fundraising looks like profit shares at restaurants around Boston, 50/50 raffles at Bruins games, galas, and even golf tournaments. This year, they’ve had to adjust a little bit. Due to the coronavirus and social distancing guidelines, the foundation has had to cancel or postpone many of their fundraising events. However, Lambert was very excited to share that they have still been able to complete two donations throughout the last few months, and are planning to continue fundraising efforts when things return to normal. 

During the last few months, Lambert has had to adjust her training schedule slightly. She put her workouts in Boston on pause, instead heading to her local track and doing at-home workouts. 

“For me personally, quarantine and taking another year really works in my favor, just because I’ve only been doing track and field for a year,” Lambert explained. “That’s kind of how I’m looking at this whole situation - I have more time to get better and I’m only going to continue to improve.” 

She has slowly returned to training with her coach and (Femita), keeping themselves in shape until competition returns. And for Lambert, that couldn’t come soon enough. 

“I’m really excited to get some more competitions under my belt,” she laughed. “I’ve only actually competed five or six times.” 

As someone fairly new to the Paralympic world herself, Lambert admits she is constantly still in awe of the athletes and competitions. One of her favorite parts of getting involved with the sport has been sharing it all with her friends and family - whether that’s sharing videos with them or inviting them to Born to Run Foundation fundraisers. 

She described the adaptive sport experience as one that really empowers her. “It puts you in a place where you say to yourself, ‘I am able to do this. Just because I have a disability or something happened to me doesn’t mean that my life is over.’ The whole community just makes me want to do better and makes me want to be better.” 

To more about the Born to Run Foundation, visit their website here. 

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Noelle Lambert

Track and Field