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Young Alysia an inspiration to others

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By Claude Lewis

Alysia Gabel was too young to remember most of what happened on that April day in 2001.

Just 2 1/2 years old, Gabel was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by an aunt. She was in the process of making a turn on Suwannee Road in Old Town. The three-wheeler in the bed shifted, causing the truck to roll.

Little Alysia was tossed from the vehicle. The injuries were life threatening.

"She remembers the helicopter,"said her father, Shawn. "That's about all."

Alysia was airlifted to Jacksonville. The first few days were touch and go. One thing was evident –she would lose her right leg from the knee on down.

There were other less serious injuries, but learning to live without the leg would be her stiffest challenge.

Time travel seven years later.

Out on the gym floor at Chiefland High is a happy, vibrant, young girl playing in the Chiefland Area Athletic Association's winter basketball league.

She runs up and down the floor as well as any of the other children playing in the 9 and Under League. Like the other kids, she has her Nikes on. The only difference is, she wears a prosthesis –or artificial limb – from the knee down.

Alysia is a tribute to medical science and the power of positive thinking.

"She's always very optimistic,"said her stepmom, Lori. "I think it happening at such a young age helped her as far as adjusting."

"Alysia has a strong head," added dad. "She doesn't get down too often."

Shawn said that Alysia has been on the prosthesis since she was 3 1/2. Since she is still a growing girl, it is adjusted every year. The one now has been in place for seven months.

"She has some limitations, but she can do almost anything anyone else can do. She plays on the monkey bars. She has great balance on one leg. She can do laps around the gym on her left leg."

"She climbs the trees with the boys–she does it all," added Lori.

Alysia has also participated in CAAA cheerleading and has just enrolled in a karate class. Lori said she wants to give volleyball a try.

Shawn played basketball at Chiefland High, graduating in 1993. He is now involved coaching and officiating with the CAAA.

There is a hoop at Gabel's Chiefland home. Alysia, along with brother Adam and sisters Avery and Sierra, spend a lot of spare time shooting baskets.

"This is her first year playing basketball,"Lori said of the CAAA experience. "She's still learning."

Speaking of learning, Alysia's favorite subject as a third grader at Chiefland Elementary is math.

"Considering what she first went through, it's a blessing that it turned out the way it did,"Shawn said. "I think she can be an encouragement to other kids."