Stonington senior on a roll toward goals

Stonington High School senior Marc Tattersall, center, visits with varsity softball team members Jennifer Paride, 20, and Christine McNeil, 10, while the team starts to gather Wednesday for its softball game.
Buy Photo Dana Jensen/The Day Stonington High School senior Marc Tattersall, center, visits with varsity softball team members Jennifer Paride, 20, and Christine McNeil, 10, while the team starts to gather Wednesday for its softball game.

Stonington - Marc Tattersall may have had to use a wheelchair his whole life, but that hasn't stopped him from playing tennis and baseball and skiing down mountains.

That's why those who know him at Stonington High School have no doubt he'll accomplish his next goal after graduation - becoming a cruise ship director.

Tattersall, the son of Liz and Matt Tattersall of Greenhaven Road, was born with spina bifida and has no feeling below his chest.

But at the age of 4, his father had him skiing, first standing up in a brace and then sitting down. Many weekends during the winter, he can be found speeding down the mountains of Vermont.

For the past two seasons, he's managed the high school girls softball and basketball teams, where he charts games and is their "number one fan."

Does Tattersall ever wonder why he can't get out there and run around and play the sports he loves?

"It's who I am. It's what makes me who I am," he said. " I tell my parents all the time that when I have a dream, I'm never in a wheelchair. I'm always standing up and running around."

Caroline Chapman, who coordinates the high school's career center, is close with Tattersall's family and has known him since he was a young child. Most days, Tattersall stops in her office to talk.

"I'm so proud of him," she said. "A lot of kids could have let this tear them apart. But he hasn't. He has goals."

Chapman said from an early age, Tattersall's parents made him responsible for doing chores, feeding pets and other activities.

"His parents raised him not to think he has a disability," she said.

Chapman said Tattersall's inability to walk has also influenced the way he treats others.

"He looks at everyone on an equal playing field. He's nice to everyone," she said. "I think that's because of where he comes from."

Chapman said she calls Tattersall "the mayor."

Tattersall, who has three older sisters, was born and raised in Stonington and also attended Deans Mill and Mystic middle schools.

For the past 10 summers, he's attended Ivan Lendl's Wheelchair Sports Camp in West Hartford, where he competes in tennis, basketball, track and soccer. He has also played baseball in a challenger league in East Lyme.

He said he loves the feeling of being outside, especially the ski slopes.

"I love the whole experience, being out in the cold and then coming in and warming up. That's the best part," he said.

Watching an ESPN documentary about a high school girls basketball team in which a player was injured and in a wheelchair but went on to win a state championship, inspired Tattersall to ask to be part of the team at the high school.

"It clicked. I wanted to be part of that," he said. "It's been a great two years."

He said many of the girls who play basketball also play softball and asked him to join that team as well.

"I don't really have a job," he joked. "I basically sit in the dugout and I'm their number one fan."

Chapman said she is happy to see Tattersall graduate and move on to college, because there were times in his high school career when he was very ill.

"There's no doubt he'll do whatever he sets out to do," she said.

Tattersall said graduation will be a bittersweet moment because he has so many friends still at the school.

"But I want to start the next chapter," he said.

That chapter begins this fall, when he will enroll at Three Rivers Community College to get his associate degree in hotel management.

After that, he plans to apply to Johnson & Wales University in Providence and enroll in its cruise ship management program.

He said his interest in cruise ships comes from his grandparents, who have taken numerous cruises all around the world. He's been on three.

"Being out cruising on the water, the food, the people. Everything about a cruise, I love," he said.

Chapman said she often jokes with Tattersall that when he graduates in a few weeks, he will need to find a replacement.

"Caroline, you know no one can replace me," he tells her.

Few would disagree.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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