Women Who Inspire: Emily Hoskins

St. Jude cancer survivor and two-time Paralympic gold medalist sparks kids’ love for adaptive sports.

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  •  2 min

Emily Hoskins

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On Sept. 15, 2008, one of the world’s best wheelchair basketball players — Emily Hoskins of Team USA — made her way into the locker room of the National Indoor Stadium of Beijing, China, and began to scream. After all the years of scrappiness and striving, she had earned her chance to play — first at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens and now at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Her team had just beaten Germany to win the gold, and she felt euphoric.

“It was the most wild, energetic moment of my life just shooting out of me and just screaming,” she said.  

Emily Hoskins

Emily was born paralyzed from the waist down, her spine severed by neuroblastoma tumors. At 3 days old, she traveled with her father from Illinois to Tennessee, having received a referral to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

At St. Jude, she underwent chemotherapy and surgery. By age 7, she was cancer-free, but she returned to St. Jude for checkups until she turned 18. 

Emily never knew a time when she was able to walk unassisted, so it wasn’t something to overcome. It was just what was. Her parents treated her the same as her two brothers and encouraged her to try new things. At 14, she discovered wheelchair basketball and fell hard – literally at first. But she had a work ethic and was determined to stay in the game.

Today, in addition to being a child therapist, Emily coaches kids’ wheelchair basketball for the Music City Thunder team just outside of Nashville, Tenn.  

Emily Hoskins

“I’ve been that player who sits on the bench the entire game and does not play,” said Emily. “I have also been that player who plays 40 minutes every game all tournament and never comes out and everything else in between. And I tell my kids that a lot.”

She urges her players to try as many adaptive sports as possible in case something sparks. Like it did for 17-year-old Zion Redington, who did not believe sports were for him until Emily showed him what was possible. Zion began playing wheelchair basketball but found his true passion with wheelchair rugby, which means Emily is not Zion’s coach anymore. Yet, in all the ways that matter, Zion insists she always will be. 

“Even though she loves wheelchair basketball, going past that, she loves the people more. She wants them to exude in life, to be independent,” said Zion. “We can do all these different things that people would never think that a person with a disability would ever be able to do. She really wants that for all her athletes.”

This summer, Zion will travel to Paris, where he and his teammates will represent the USA in wheelchair rugby at the 2024 Paralympic Games.  

When Zion and his family learned he had made Team USA, his first call was to Emily.

Women who Inspire: Emily Hoskins "What advice would you give to your younger self?"

After all, said Zion, “She opened me up to life.” 

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