Story and photos by SportsUp News
By all accounts, she is a leader on and off the field. Valeria Tkacik was named to the National Women’s Lacrosse LeaguDeae South Regional Team and is considered a talented athlete who loves playing lacrosse, basketball, golf, track, soccer and flag football. A good student in the classroom, Valeria was also accepted as a Mother Teresa Scholar at Ave Maria University (Fla.).
She has contributed service time for charity work, including a mission trip to Harlem, N.Y., where she served the poor and homeless. Also, Valeria recently got a haircut and donated 12 inches of her hair to Art of Wigs (Texas) to help cancer patients. As a freshman, she served as a representative on Ave Maria’s Student Government. For her sophomore year (during 2016-17), Valeria will serve on the Student Activities Board and was selected for Ave Maria’s Media Internship Program.
And if those achievements aren’t enough, Valeria is also a motivational speaker, helping patients who are struggling with the loss of limbs and providing them encouragement. The reason? Valeria can relate to their story. You see, what makes Valeria’s life especially inspiring is that she achieves so much with only one arm.
Valeria was adopted from Russia at 18 months old … and was born with a condition called congenital shoulder disarticulation, meaning she has no left arm. Workers at the children’s home where she was born said the condition was due to complications from the kidney medication her birth mother was taking during her pregnancy. But being born with only one arm hasn’t stopped Tkacik from living a life more active than most.
“People always asked me growing up how I am able to tie my shoes, how do I put my hair up in a ponytail or how I am able to play lacrosse,” she said. “I just say that I just do it.”
“Even though I only have one arm, God has given me so many other beautiful gifts. It’s been a real honor and blessing to please the Lord with all the events and activities I’ve been doing and I think He is pleased with how I handled my situation growing up.”
Tkacik said she always knew that God had a plan for her and the entire Tkacik family points to Valeria’s strong faith as the reason for her success. “She learned her Catholic faith attending Catholic schools but also living in the faith at home. We would say rosaries at home together. She would remind us it was almost time to pray. The feeling you get from that as a parent wants to make you do it that much more.”
Those teachings have served her well as a young adult now living away at college. She frequently attends Mass at her university or will spend some time in the Adoration Chapel. “(People) always ask me how I am able to do what I do? They say it is something that they could never do,” she said. “It’s a crutch that God gives certain people that He thinks can overcome it and I think I am the right person to handle this. God led my parents to Russia to come pick me up,” she says. “I always had joy in my heart and I always want to give back to God because without Him, I don’t know where I would be.”
Valeria, a political science major, said she would love to get into politics in the future as she also completed an internship with U.S. Senator Rob Portman in Washington, DC. “I just think it’s fascinating,” she said.
Valeria has an interest in attending law school following her undergraduate studies and is also considering pursuing a career in the media. Ultimately, Valeria said she just wants to live the life she’s been called to live. “Actions speak louder than words and I just love my life,” she said. “My goal is to continue to live a Christ-like life.”