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‘Look at us!’ Brad Fritz (Wheelchair Waver) to make swimsuit calendar for those with disabilities

By Ryan Clark

NKyTribune reporter

Brad Fritz has a joke he likes to tell his classes.

He knows that when he’s speaking to them, one student will inevitably ask what Fritz does for a living. It’s a logical question. People always wonder — how can someone who has trouble speaking and walking actually earn a living?

Brad and friends

Fritz then nods and waits a beat before answering, which he does by typing into a device that speaks for him in a computerized voice.

He types out two words. “Speedo model.”

It always gets a laugh from the crowd, making them feel even more comfortable. It’s silly, really — a guy in a wheelchair being a model. In Speedos, no less.

Or is it?

“I started thinking one day and realized that people don’t view me or other people with disabilities in a way that could be seen as daring or risqué — not sexual or anything, but just in a way that shows off our body,” said Fritz, who severely injured his spine in 1999 as a high-schooler when he was riding in a car with a drunk driver as they sped through Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell. 

They lost control and hit a tree, and Fritz suffered severe brain and spine damage and is now confined to a wheelchair. Fritz, who has gained some recent local fame during the pandemic by going out daily and waving to motorists on Turkeyfoot Road near his home in Northern Kentucky, has spent his entire adult life touring local schools to educate students on the danger of underage drinking.

Ryan Lloyd and friends

And he always likes to tell jokes to make those students feel more comfortable — jokes like the Speedo line.

But what if it’s not so funny?

Recently, Fritz started thinking maybe he could do something, maybe create a swimsuit calendar featuring people with disabilities.

“I started thinking that it would be an amazing way to not only empower the models but empower teens and adults that are missing limbs or disabled in any way by seeing people that they can relate to, showing off their bodies and being proud to be in swimsuits,” Fritz said. “It’s also about opening people’s eyes and making them aware that disabilities or missing limbs don’t limit who we are or what we can do!”

Fritz began to scour the Internet, looking for people with disabilities who may want to participate.

The idea isn’t totally original. A simple Google search reveals at least one other incarnation of this type of calendar. In 2013, a group of disabled people in Europe posed for a calendar celebrating the beauty of the human form.

Those participants, who included Paralympic stars, received quite a bit of exposure for their “Undressing Disability” calendar.

Here, Fritz reached out to local possibilities, and then expanded to a national search by looking at profiles on TikTok. So far he’s received commitments from at least six potential models, he said.

One of those is Ryan Lloyd, 28, of Alexandria. He was born with spina bifida.

Brad and students

“Oddly enough, I met Brad when I was out with some friends one night,” he said. “I added him on Facebook after that night and I’ve followed him ever since. He mentioned his calendar to me and I just thought it was awesome.”

Lloyd said he and Fritz share the same outlook on life, despite their challenges.

“He is enjoying his life to the fullest, and if participating in this calendar with him will help that, then I’m all for it!” he said.

Another participant came via the app TikTok.

Rachel Hamilton, 32, lives in Southern California and goes by the handle @hello_nurse_ on the app. She suffered a spinal cord injury due to medical negligence when she was pregnant, and now has to use a cane, walker and wheelchair.

Hamilton works as a nurse now for a large county hospital, but used to be a model.

“I’ve actually done some minor modeling in the past — swimsuits and event working,” she said. “I did it when I was younger and in nursing school I enjoyed it, but there wasn’t much of a future in modeling for me because I was told I look too commercial.”

Rachel Hamilton

Fritz saw her profile on the app and immediately told her of his idea.
“It sounds like a great idea,” she said, adding that she wants to show people she is proud of her body, as well as what she can do.

“I’m disABLED,” she said, emphasizing the word ‘able.’

Fritz says he is still looking for participants and sponsors for the project, which he hopes to roll out in the fall in time for the holidays.

“I’d like to market this in rehab centers and hospitals because I think it would help patients relate to the models and feel more confident,” he said. “I’m also going to market it to high schools and colleges because I think they might love it since it’s not the norm.
“Overall, like I mentioned, I think it just gives people that are disabled, or missing limbs, or anything else, a voice in pictures to say “HERE WE ARE! LOOK AT US!”

Interested in participating? Contact Brad Fritz on TikTok, SnapChat or by email at bjfritz21@yahoo.com

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One Comment

  1. Richard says:

    I have seen Brad many times on Turkeyfoot road, smiling and waving. Good to put a name and a story with a face. Thanks Brad for making a difference in our community!

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