Interview with Tony Torres
Tony “Jimmy Wheelz” Torres can’t keep still for too long. He grew up used to being constantly in motion, and that’s how he lives his life these days as a WCMX athlete and now published author of a new book, “Jimmy Wheelz and the Minilights,” about a young boy with spina bifida who discovers the light inside himself while being hospitalized due to complications.
Laurita Tellado, Social Media Manager for Affordable Medical, had the opportunity to chat with Torres about his penchant for staying active, his writing process, and how he is keeping up with his fitness routine during the coronavirus pandemic.
I had the idea for the book a long time ago when I was in my teens but didn’t put the first edition together until 2014. This past year I was fortunate to get with HALO Publishing International and with their help, reworked the book and put out a fresh new second edition. It would not be possible without the help of David Cardona and Affordable Medical who sponsored the project.
Like most individuals with spina bifida, I spent a great deal of time in and out of the hospitals. Growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida, All Children’s Hospital was where I ended up when I needed medical care. Back in the day, All Children’s was close to a park called Roser Park, or the Underground City as it was also called. And yeah, it was a really cool historic area that St. Pete has under sea level. I spent a lot of time there. I usually went down there alone to think, but many times with my friends and family. To this day, I love truly that park. As I learned more about the park and its history, I came upon an urban legend the park has, the story about the Minilights. Now, in the urban legend, the Minilights weren’t so nice and weird, unexplained bad things did happen down there. The stories were meant to scare kids into not to go down there because of the dangers, but in my crazy mind there were my friends and I used to go on missions to find them. Never did.
I actually escaped from the hospital many times and left my floor, which I really wasn’t supposed to do. I gave the staff and security guards a run for their money. Not only was I faster than them because I had fast wheels, but I was really good at hiding and getting away from them. I guess I liked the cat and mouse game, but them, not so much. Especially when all the downstairs tunnels were so cool to roll through. I was a bit of a rebel and always going against the grain.
I’ve had some good years and some very bad ones. [The year] 2014 was one of those I wanted to just forget, but while I recouped from a major hip reconstruction surgery and laid in bed for most of it, it became my most creative. It became one of the most important ones. The year I put all my ideas on paper and published it. Turning a crazy time into something positive.
Today, it has turned into something different. I never had someone like me growing up, a hero with the same issues making a difference, someone I could look up to and show me the possibilities. In today’s [age], there are so many people who do exactly that. I just want to be one of those guys. It’s why I became a WCMX Athlete and why I work for an adaptive sports non-profit. [It] changed my life.
LT: As an athlete, you are accustomed to facing challenges and crushing them. What did you find challenging about the process of writing and publishing a book?
Writing and putting ideas together is tough, no matter the project. I’ve been in the creative realm practically all my life. I owe that to my mother who was a teacher, artist, and the most creative person I know. I used creativity a lot to get through tough times. However, I love it so much, I made it into a career. The hardest part of it all was that I wasn’t sure what to do. [The] first edition, I did alone, and there wasn’t anyone around to guide me. Now today, with a publisher, I don’t have those hardships. I have someone to let me know what’s next.
We are all going to take hits, it’s what we do when we are down, that makes all the difference. My life’s motto is “When things push you down, don’t quit! Get up and push back harder.”
You seem to be such an active, outgoing person. How has the current coronavirus crisis affected your daily activities? How are you staying busy and optimistic?
That’s a tough one. It has definitely been challenging, personally, and professionally. [Like] a lot of individuals out there, I’m one with underlying conditions and don’t have the best immune system, so the virus sure is scary. I just try to keep thinking that it will pass, but in the meantime, [I’m] doing my best to stay healthy. Work keeps me busy and positive. I’m a person that creates, so I’m constantly looking for inspiration and that bright new idea. I tend to think out of the box to find solutions and adapt quickly. Now, I haven’t been as physically active as I use to be, but I’m still out doing my best to get my heart pumping, and all I need for that is my chair. An hour or two of some WCMX spins and tricks will sure do that. The empty tennis courts at my apartment have perfect flat ground to roll around, fall, and practice. Neighbors think I’m nuts.
LT: What would you like to tell our readers and followers who are currently facing struggles and serious challenges?
Well, we [are] all facing struggles. Humanity is facing some really tough ones, currently. And I know from personal experience that social distancing from loved ones just really sucks. All I can say to everyone is to keep pushing forward and reach out to family AND friends because you’re not alone.
LT: What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I’m still writing and working in the creative field, so I’ll always keep that going in all media forms: print, video, web, and audio works. I have some cool projects coming up.
In addition, [the collective ASF team’s] dream is to put together the ultimate adaptive sports compound and training facility, a haven for our action sports community to learn, train, work out and shred the skatepark. Action Sports Foundation, Inc. is a leader down here in Florida for the action sports community and we as a team want it to keep growing and making it more accessible.
You can purchase your copy of “Jimmy Wheelz and the Minilights here:
The book is also available on Amazon.
To contact Tony Torres, E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Tony here:
ASF on Social Media
My ASF Work email: email@example.com
There are many opportunities these days for anyone with any sort of limitation or ability to get involved in adaptive sports. All it takes is the motivation to make some changes. It is a proven fact that adaptive sports play a big part in the lives of individuals who take part in them. They promote a healthier lifestyle, changes in attitude, and many social benefits. It’s important to keep moving, adapt, and make the necessary changes to reach your goals.
Don’t be scared to try something new, don’t be scared to fall. The important thing is to always get up. Find your sport, try them all, but find the one that speaks to you and moves you and rock it!
About the Book
Jimmy Whelsner has just begun middle school when he suddenly becomes ill from conditions
surrounding his birth defect, spina bifida. After being admitted to Front View Hospital, Jimmy discovers the light inside himself, a light that he never even knew existed. All it takes is a bit of growing up and the help of three magical little creatures: the Minilights.
About the Author
Tony Torres Vanga is an artist and professional WCMX (wheelchair motocross) athlete with spina bifida who mentors children and adults in adaptive sports. He worked alongside various creative teams in Tampa Bay, Florida before joining ASF Adaptive Sports, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to promote responsibility and goodwill throughout the community through the platform of action sports. He is available for speaking engagements, adaptive sports demos, special events, and private consultations.
About Affordable Medical
Affordable Medical has been a proud sponsor of Tony Torres and Action Sports foundation for several years. Affordable Medical specializes in urological catheters In Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Affordable medical strives to provide superior service to all our clients. We accept Florida Medicaid, North Carolina Medicaid, and South Carolina Medicaid for your catheter supplies. Please reach out to us if you have any questions for your catheter supply 888-991-9945 or www.mycaths.com