WILDWOOD, NJ (CBS) — It happens in 12 cities across the country, but on Sunday, Life Rolls On rolled on to Wildwood Crest in New Jersey for the “They Will Surf Again” event.
On the waves, many feel limitless.
“One of the beautiful things about being in the water is the freedom,” said Heather Markham.
Because on land, some are paralyzed by spinal cord injuries or disabilities.
“I actually have muscular dystrophy,” Markham said. “So I have no push and no ability to walk.”
Markham forgets that when she’s in the water – and it’s why she traveled from Louisville, Kentucky to be here.
“It’s awesome,” she said.
All of this is made possible by Life Rolls On, founded by Jesse Billauer 17 years ago after a surfing accident paralyzed him from the waist down.
“Without this foundation, without these events, a lot of people would never have the chance to go surfing. So we’re making dreams happen. That’s what it’s all about,” Billauer said.
Doctors told Billauer he’d never surf again, but he has – in his own way.
And on Sunday, more than 60 people did the same, riding the waves on adaptive surfboards as hundreds of volunteers, including physical and occupational therapists, lined the water.
“Just for us to be a part of that and helping them experience that and get that emotional strength back is really amazing,” said volunteer and physical therapist Rochelle Gibney.
And that resilience is something Chad DeSatnick knows firsthand through recovering from his own surfing injury more than fifteen years ago.
DeSatnick, a Cape May County native, started the DeSatnick Foundation four years ago.
It helps local patients with spinal cord injuries.
“What we witness during this event is freedom for people who don’t have freedom in their daily lives,” DeSatnick said. “When you see that emotion on the faces of these adapted athletes, that’s what really brings people back every single year.”
Because those who attend come to realize that, like the waves that carry them, Life Rolls On.