If you were walking or driving near the corner of Arlington and Columbus Streets in downtown Boston this fall, you may have caught sight of a larger-than-life reminder of the power of mentoring. Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) is grateful and proud that our collaborators and sponsors, Liberty Mutual Insurance, created and installed a giant billboard above a Back Bay building, featuring PYD star mentor Juan Martin Botero and his PYD mentee, Eric. These two could be seen soaring above the street traffic and inspiring us all to reach new heights in mentoring. Juan is from Columbia, lives in Cambridge, MA and works at NaviNet in Boston. He is dedicated to mentoring through PYD. His experiences have encouraged him to advocate for mentoring more broadly, as well.
Liberty Mutual created, photographed and installed this creative billboard, one of a series, to promote and salute PYD and other disability serving organizations. In addition, PYD is collaborating with Liberty Mutual through our National Center for Mentoring Youth with Disabilities to help promote inclusion for persons with disabilities in Boston.
Juan had a busy fall. On a chilly and gray afternoon on September 29th, the PYD mentor and adventure athlete and Team PYD fellow riders, Bill Connors and Steven Taub, finished a 25 mile bike ride for the Rodman Ride for Kids, beating last year’s finishing time by one minute! The support and awareness they raised benefits PYD directly. Juan rode for the fourth consecutive year for Team PYD. Riding with Juan, William Connors of Lynnfield, MA, a Partners for Youth with Disabilities Board member, scientist, triathlete and father of toddler twins, and Steve Taub of Brookline, MA, a first-time rider and PYD supporter, experienced the encouraging spectators and volunteers all along the route. Each year it has been striking to see Juan as the only rider with a visible physical disability in this increasingly high-profile event.
In 2010, Juan finished the 25 mile Rodman Ride course in 3:20, twice as fast as his personal goal. He was diagnosed with Ataxia over a decade ago, and just over five years ago began using a wheelchair for greater mobility. The neurological dysfunction brought on by Ataxia affects gross motor coordination, so Juan uses adaptive equipment such as his recumbent bike, the Greenspeed Tadpole, for cycling training and racing, as well as his daily commute when weather permits. Such equipment enables him to continue following his passions for the outdoors and travel, which culminated in his climbs in recent years to Mt. Kilimanjaro’s summit and the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Juan wants to encourage young people facing challenges: “For this reason I believe in Partners for Youth with Disabilities, and I became a mentor: because I hope I can share with them my strengths and my stories, and I can show them that we can all climb Kilimanjaro in our own terms.” He has served as a mentor through the Mentor Match program at Partners for Youth with Disabilities since 2009.
PYD’s opportunity to participate in the Rodman Ride for Kids is thanks in part to Mass Mentoring Partnership, the state’s umbrella organization for youth mentorship. The Rodman Ride helps to provide critical funding for youth-focused social service agencies that support at-risk children in Massachusetts. For over twenty-five years, PYD has assisted youth with disabilities in our community. PYD empowers youth with disabilities to reach their full potential by providing transformative mentoring programs, youth development opportunities, and inclusion expertise. We motivate youth to reach their personal, educational, and career goals and guide organizations in becoming more inclusive.