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John Register Brings the National Athlete Advocate Ambassador Campaign from Idea to Reality

By Jewel Connelly, Communications Specialist

John Register

Photo credit: Russell Climie/Tiberius Images

No matter where you are, playing a sport can transcend cultural, socioeconomic, and even language barriers. The universality is evident every four years when the globe comes together to watch the Olympic and Paralympic Games and cheer for their country on the international stage. Sports have the power to connect and unite people from all walks of life who share a love for the game, a team, or an individual competitor with a captivating story. Seeing this for himself as the founder of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Paralympic Military Sports Program, Amputee Coalition Board Member John Register is the visionary behind the inaugural National Athlete Advocate Ambassador (NAAA) campaign launched in 2024. This strategic campaign leverages the voices of some of the limb loss and limb difference communities’ most visible and recognizable advocates: athletes, and seeks to elevate topics important to the Amputee Coalition and the greater community through their platforms.

As a 4x track and field All-American, 2x Olympic trials qualifier, and sought-after keynote speaker, John is one of four ambassadors who has embraced this shared mission to raise awareness. While at the 2023 National Conference, a conversation was being had about ways to engage more with the community to amplify targeted messaging. One of the pockets in the community that stood out to John were athletes, and a group gathered to discuss how they could collectively use their voices to make an impact. “I think the more we can elevate the community’s concerns through the athlete population, it lends itself to increasing awareness of the issues and impacts the larger market,” John said. The NAAA campaign is positioned to do just that over the course of the year.

John Register Prior to his amputation, John was focused on qualifying for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta in track and field. When he landed wrong and hyperextended his knee, it resulted in the amputation of his left leg. John quickly switched gears as a Paralympian and later went on to win silver (long jump) at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney. His experiences as a high-level athlete and an Army veteran led him to found the USOPC Paralympic Military Program to support wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. Although not every member of the limb loss/limb difference community wants (or has access) to participate in sports, the pursuit can be valuable for realizing how much you are truly capable of. “I believe sports give you other options, other parallel pathways to see what is possible in your life,” John said. “I had to adapt my mental and psychological environment after my amputation, and sports can help make the mental shift to thinking, ‘If I can do this, what else can I do?’”

For John, rallying the first group of athletes to use their platforms as part of the NAAA campaign is just part of a larger vision to spark a chain reaction within the community. “It’s my hope that this becomes not just about the sport; it’s really about the advocacy work,” John said. “It’s about how we collectively are using our voices wherever we are to advance the cause of the Amputee Coalition.” As a professional public speaker (2024 Top 50 Global Leadership Speaker) he emphasizes the power of personal narrative, especially when it comes to being an effective advocate.

The need for greater inclusivity, accessibility, and equal opportunity is a reality not just in sports, but in all areas of life including transportation, the workplace, and insurance coverage. With So Every BODY Can Move gaining momentum across the country, John envisions the role of ambassadors extending to a presence on Capitol Hill. “It would be great to have athletes involved to lend their voice on Capitol Hill visits and be very astute on what is going on inside the community,” John said.

As one ambassador to the community, John’s goal is to help mobilize the coalition as a whole and call people to also carry these messages forward by sharing with their networks. “I think the biggest thing is to insert yourself into the process,” John added. “Ask yourself, ‘where can I insert myself to elevate and amplify the conversation?’” In this way, the NAAA campaign can be used as a springboard for athletes and non-athletes alike to raise their voices and accomplish the goal of increasing awareness together.

Follow John Register on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as he elevates the limb loss and limb difference community throughout the year.