It’s a sunny afternoon in Orchard Park and senior Peter Rifenburg is competing in the one mile run for the Quakers.

“To be a part of an organized league is something I’ve always pursued in doing,” he said.  “So, joining track and field was one of the highlights of my career.”

It’s an accomplishment not many envisioned for the teenager.

“First child, of course there’s a hundred pictures, every day.  That was 2000, so you’re still developing pictures, so I’m not really paying attention to the fact that there is a reflection in the pictures.  So, they tell us and I’m talking to other parents at the hospital that they noticed the cat’s eye reflection,” his mom, Rachel said.

“I go back through all of my pictures and sure enough, in every single picture, there’s a cat’s eye reflection.”

At his two-month wellness visit, doctors discovered Peter had Retinalblastoma.  His mom made a trip to Philadelphia to meet with specialists. The diagnosis was confirmed — cancer.

“That’s when your world comes crashing down,” she said.  “When you have this beautiful child that is going to endure what grown adults can’t handle sometimes and you have to do this to save their life.”

For nearly a year Peter would undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  The tumors would calcify, impacting his vision.

But, as Peter grew up he still wanted to play organized sports with his friends.

“When it came to the point where he would ask us, I want to join a baseball team or I want to join a hockey team, Rachel would tell him ‘you can’t,’ his dad said.  “I can remember having a talk with him one time. And I asked him why he got so about it, we can just have as much fun in the yard playing and his answer was always ‘he just wanted to make me proud.’  What he didn’t understand was that I was already proud of him.”

Legally blind, and despite not being able to join the baseball or hockey team, Peter found a way to compete.

“I kind of look at it as you’re one in a million,” Peter said.

“My sister in-law Laura did an Iron Man and I think that’s where he got the bug because it was so inspiring,” Rachel added.

At age 11 Peter competed in his first triathlon and he hasn’t stopped.  From the Carolina’s to Cleveland and throughout Western New York, Peter is a staple in the water and on the course – even participating in half and full marathons.

“I do everything that a visually impaired person shouldn’t be doing,” he joked.

But it wasn’t until his junior year that Peter hit the track for the first time as a member of a team.  First, competing in long-distance races before under taking a few new challenges.

“I wanted to branch out. I wanted to show that I wasn’t as limited as people thought I was.”

“Nothing that we’ve ever officially discussed or talked about it,” his coach Chuck Mancabelli said.” We’ve never put, he or I have ever put a limiation on what he can or can’t do.”

“I felt like it wasn’t something to bring up. I just wanted to see how far I could go being a “normal person” doing track,” Peter said.

“His condition was a lifelong sentence for him,” his mom said.  “He’s going outside the cards he was dealt.”

“I look at is as it shows people just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you’re limited in any aspect. You can be who you want to be.”

“Peter is my hero,” his dad said.  “He is my inspiration.  I don’t think he knows that, but he is.  He will always be my hero.”