CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY)– What happened on Carolina Beach this weekend would once be considered impossible. Forty participants got to hit the waves in a very different way.
Life Rolls On is an organization that raises awareness about spinal cord injuries. This weekend 40 people that have been constrained to a wheelchair were able to experience the freedom of mobility.
For Whitney Cranford, this is a break from reality. She started three years ago with Life Rolls On. This year she invited her childhood friend Mary Gainey to see what riding the waves is like.
“When I got here I was overwhelmed,” Gainey said. “Wow. So many people just like me. That’s not normal for where we are from.”
It’s the kind of reaction that keeps volunteers coming back.
“One of them said to me, ‘Just anything to get out of this chair,” volunteer Scotty Diamond said. “I mean it’s got to really hit you with that.”
More than 200 volunteers like Diamond assisted paraplegics and quadriplegics with adaptive equipment to ride the waves Saturday.
Jesse Billauer started this program after he had his own spinal cord injury.
“It took me a few years after my accident, but I figured out how to adapt a surfboard, had some friends, and they helped push me into waves, and that’s when I realized this is what I love,” Billauer said. “So that’s when I started Life Rolls On.”
For Cranford and Gainey, this is a way to delete the stress in their lives.
“It’s my reset button,” Cranford said.
The event is more than just for the participants though. The families, friends and volunteers alike get to experience the freedom and the support.
“Just seeing them, I see that they see us all helping, and we’re all like one big family,” Diamond said. “We’re all in it together. You know, life rolls on.”
Some of the participants even said it was the only chance they have had to be on the beach. The event is completely run off of donations and sponsors. The participants did not have to pay anything.