Sharing her story is nothing new for Abby Bauleke.
Ever since she was diagnosed with Leukemia at four years old, which left her paralyzed from the waist down, Bauleke is proof that nothing is impossible. And she’s never shied away from sharing her message of perseverance and determination.
That story gained a few more chapters when Bauleke and Team USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, and six months later, Bauleke and the defending champion Alabama Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team won the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Championship.
In August, Bauleke was named to the second annual Degree Breaking Limits team, and she suddenly had a large platform to share her full story
“I’ve told my story many times in my life and how it’s impacted me,” Bauleke said. “But I’ve never really thought about it from the lens of how I can use my story to impact others around me and at such a wide scale.”
As one of the first brands to burst onto the NIL scene in July 2021, Degree announced the Breaking Limits team with a commitment to giving college athletes from a diverse set of schools, sports and backgrounds, a platform to share their stories and inspire the confidence in everyone to break down barriers and push limits.
“Degree is such a big brand that so many people know,” Bauleke said. “I think the whole Breaking Limits campaign was so cool because it was so many different people, different stories and the experiences that shaped them into the athletes they are.”
One of those stories came from Bauleke’s Alabama and Team USA teammate Bailey Moody, an inaugural member of the Breaking Limits team.
“It was like experiencing the campaign with Bailey, who I’ve experienced so many things with,” Bauleke said. “That made it even more special to me.”
Degree isn’t the only brand that Bauleke has partnered with for NIL deals. Toyota, a strong supporter of the Paralympic and Olympic Games, was Bauleke’s first NIL deal prior to the Tokyo Games.
“I thought it was really cool that Paralympic athletes were getting the same amount of treatment as Olympic athletes,” she said.
Bauleke is proud that brands like Degree and Toyota have signed NIL deals with diverse groups of athletes and abilities and she knows firsthand how important visibility in sport is – something that she didn’t always have growing up.
“Especially for Paralympic athletes, I think it’s really cool for younger athletes that may be trying to find Paralympic sports to see a wide variety of people with different stories,” she said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of that when I was young and growing up with a disability.”
Desi Okeke, Degree U.S. Engagement & Innovation Director, knows that to be true. It’s the motivation for Degree to be in this space and to amplify these athletes’ voices.
“The thing that makes this such a sweet opportunity is to be able to change it up a little bit and share that stage and share that limelight because there are other voices that need to be heard,” Okeke said. “Those athletes and the big names will always have a platform to share their story, but these athletes don’t necessarily have the platform to do it.”
Bauleke, a junior studying human development and family studies, aspires to become a child life specialist after college. For now, she’s still writing her own story as a student-athlete and Paralympian and hoping to inspire others along the way.
“I think my partnership with Degree helped me figure out how cool and important it is to share my story, and I think I want to do that with other people as well,” she said.