Hermin Garic

STARS Athlete Spotlight
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Sitrin STARS

Hermin's Story

Hermin Garic was raised in Bosnia during the early 1990s. At that time, the Bosnian War waged. Though he enjoyed the benefits of being a child – going outside, playing, and having fun – conflict was hard to escape. Things took a turn for the worse when Hermin’s village was invaded and he and his family had to flee immediately to a safe area.

While running from the shelling and grenades exploding above their heads, Hermin was struck in the back by rocket-propelled grenade shrapnel, rendering him unconscious. His father Hajrudin, who was in the Reserves, was following behind his family, saw what had happened, and ran to his son’s aid. He carried Hermin to his uncle’s home where his father applied first aid, and then carried him to an ambulance. The safest way to a hospital was by way of back roads that were unpaved and unsafe. Traveling quickly to save Hermin’s life, the ambulance hit a road bump, lost a wheel, and crashed. The accident broke Hermin’s back and severed his spinal cord.

At just four years old, Hermin’s life changed forever.

Though Hermin thankfully survived, this harrowing experience left him without the use of his legs. After rehabilitation, he and his family moved to the United States to start a new chapter.

In his teen years, Hermin became better equipped with using a wheelchair, but he often felt unsure of his place in the world. That was until he learned about Sitrin’s STARS (Success Through Adaptive Recreation and Sports) Program from a fellow classmate.

“At first, I thought Sitrin would be like any other rehabilitation center, but after meeting STARS Director Marc DePerno, and hearing about the limitless sporting opportunities available, I became very excited about this new prospect,” Hermin said. “Looking back, joining the Sitrin STARS was a real game changer for me, on so many levels.”

At the age of 15, Hermin began participating in various sports. He tried his hand at wheelchair basketball and other activities, but found his niche in wheelchair racing.

In 2005, Hermin competed in the Sitrin Boilermaker Wheelchair Challenge, where he attempted to finish the renowned Utica Boilermaker 15K in under two hours and 15 minutes, using a standard wheelchair. He succeeded, and Sitrin awarded him a customized racing wheelchair, valued at $3,000. Afterward, Hermin continued training in his new chair. In 2011, he once again raced in the Boilermaker. This time, he was amazed when he took the podium for third place at the completion of the race. This accomplishment proved to him that he could be competitive in the sport and make a life for himself as an adaptive athlete.

Sitrin continued to support Hermin’s steadfast dedication to wheelchair racing, offering training advice, equipment, funding, and advocacy. He also found a second family among the other STARS athletes. The program gave him a more positive outlook on life, and showed him that there were endless possibilities for individuals with physical disabilities.

Within the last 15 years, Hermin has evolved into an elite athlete. He trains six days a week, year-round, spending his days conditioning both on the road and on a track. During racing season, he competes twice a month nationally and internationally. He has numerous victories on his resume including Miami, Twin Cities, and Philadelphia as well as the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon and 10K, Boilermaker 15K, ASICS Falmouth 7-Mile Road Race (Massachusetts), TD Beach to Beacon 10K (Maine), and Cooper River Bridge Run (South Carolina). He has also competed in Japan where he finished as the top United States athlete in the Oita Marathon.

By being dedicated to racing, Hermin hopes to make the United States Paralympic Team in the not-so-distant future. He credits Sitrin’s STARS Program with giving him a new identity and purpose in life. Through the program his confidence has skyrocketed, transforming him from an insecure teen to a dynamic all-star!

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