“How many people are here?” Ed asked me.

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “A hundred?”

It was almost three times that.  You would think the smoke that hung thick in the air that day would have discouraged some, but it was a large turnout for the Life Rolls On “They Will Surf Again” event in Jacksonville Beach, June 4th.

I saw the advantage of owning my own beach wheelchair right away, but other beach chairs were on hand at the lifeguard station to ferry people over the soft sand or into the water.  Some folks braved the sand in their regular wheelchairs.  Ed pushed my chair down by the water to wait my turn at “surfing.”  He was a friend of my friend, Amy, and I’d just met him, but he had volunteered his truck to tote my dune buggy of a beach chair to the event.

I’d done this once before (this was Life Rolls On’s fifth year in Jacksonville,) but I was struck again at the large number of volunteers.  There were 12 able-bodied volunteers for every disabled surfer.  When it came my turn, I understood why.  It took six or seven people just to get me out to where the waves were breaking, then shove me off in time to catch one.  And volunteers were lined up all the way to the shore to grab me wherever I happened to fall off.

Friends (clockwise) Ed, Kathy, Me and Amy. Photo by Sharon Daniel

A subsidiary of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Life Rolls On originally started the “They Will Surf Again” program for people affected by spinal cord injury.  The number of participating disabilities has grown to include brain injuries, amputees, varied birth defects and others.

After about my third ride to shore and face full of salt water, I remembered overhearing someone talk about surfing on their knees.  Anxious to avoid the stinging spray from my position lying down on the board, I asked if I could try sitting up.  This meant a volunteer would ride tandem.  This video is the first of two rides I made like that.  Now that I know it’s an option, I’m certain there will be many more.  My own hooting and hollering was drowned out by that of the volunteers.

I was touched by the enthusiasm, positive attitude and smiling face of each person who assisted that day.  I’m not sure who got more out of the experience, the surfers or all those willing to lend a helping hand.

If you’ve followed my blog you know I like to say “disability has its perks.”  Here’s another one: being disabled allows me to see the good in people.  I’m in the unique position of seeing people at their best.  I am reminded of the generosity of the human spirit almost every day when someone holds open a door, untangles Frankie’s leash or waits for me to slowly cross the road  in my power chair.  And it’s a good thing too, because with a little help, life does indeed, roll on.