Kelly Bruno was born with a birth defect. At the age of six months old, she had to have her right leg amputated below the knee. At 9 months old, she was fitted with her first prosthesis. And at 13 months old, she was walking with it.

Kelly decided early on that she would be active, that she would compete, and that she would achieve. In high school, she became one of the fastest runners on her cross-country team, averaging sub-seven minute miles, and placing in the top four on her team. At the age of 23, Kelly has already competed in and finished two Ironman competitions, 3 Half Ironmans and a series of multi-distance triathlons. “It’s kind of clich?,” says Kelly, “But I can’t quit. That four-letter word really doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.”

She proved that spirit on the Uwharrie Mountain Trail Run, a race defined by its rocky and hilly terrain. Many were surprised that she would take on such a challenge. She raced well but, unbeknownst to her, a bolt had been loosening in her prosthesis throughout the distance of the arduous course. About 200 meters from the finish, she took a step and just wiped out. When she got back up, she realized that her prosthesis was now completely useless. But the finish was a short downhill, and she didn’t want to stop at that point. So she literally hopped 150 meters on one leg until she collapsed … and then she crawled the remaining 50 meters. Onlookers were shocked to see her finish – literally on hands and knees, bleeding and exhausted. But determined.

It’s that dedication and motivation that Kelly brings to work with phenomenal organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, a program built to honor and empower wounded souldiers and to raise awareness for the needs of severely injured service men and women. Kelly is a powerful example of how incredible life can be, even after such a jarring loss. She also donates her time to the Triangle Amputee Support Group, acting as a source of constant positive support.

Kelly’s take? “I’m not an underdog because of my leg. It’s just an obstacle; everyone has their own obstacles. Whatever yours is, just don’t quit.”