Paraplegics achieve dreams with a paddle and determination - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Paraplegics achieve dreams with a paddle and determination

Vic Allen Vic Allen
Jeremy Wagner Jeremy Wagner
Aka Hemmings Aka Hemmings
Diane Whitcom Diane Whitcom

By Mike Cherry

Honolulu (HawaiiNewsNow) - They've taken on all comers and over the last 5 years the Pure Light Canoe Club has won more races than they've lost. At first glance you'd never see a flaw. Until you see how each paddler enters their canoe. More than 10 paddlers make up Pure Light's adaptive crew, each with a different story of how they were either born with a near paralyzing disease, put in a wheel chair, or in the case of Vic Allen, had one of their vital senses taken from them.

"I was assaulted I guess you might say and got my eyes punctured and I lost my sight over night you might say," said Vic Allen.

That was 16-years ago and now with nothing but black around him, Vic says he has never been able to see life better.

"I see everything around me. For instance those children playing in the background screaming, I see them running and I don't even have to look at them. You know what, I forget that I cant see all the time. There's times where I take off and run into things and I go, that's right, I cant see. Because being blind doesn't mean that you can't see, you just see a different way."

One of the reasons for his optimism is his crew. Every Saturday and Sunday the team gathers for practice. Members strap in their seats because most have little to no muscle control of their legs. While it may take more patience and help to hit the water. Once they do, it's worth it.

"Hey you know what everybody's got something wrong with them but out on the water, it all goes away," said Jeremy Wagner.  "The water has a special healing aspect to it. Paddling in general is a whole other world. It just so happens you don't need legs for paddling which is cool.

Wagner is a military veteran. He wasn't gunned down over seas. Instead his legs were taken from him in a car accident on his birthday. Jeremy never dreamt he would find a way to fulfill his competitive nature. But after discovering paddling he's never looked back.

"Everything was going good before my injury, I thought man I'm on top of everything.  Then I got injured and depressed. Now I feel like I'm on top of my game again."

Jeremy and his teammates are paving a way to history. Pure Light is hoping to make the one-man canoe race an event in the 2016 Paralympics.

In July, Pure Light will travel to Long Beach for the national trials. It's a necessary bench mark as the united states searches for members to make it's team. Master steers man and coach Aka Hemmings says he wouldn't be surprised to see his paddlers earn most of the spots. Because he's seen them beat the odds before, against able bodied crews.

"When they get on the beach and they realize that they've been beaten by a bunch of adaptive paddlers there's a little bit of anger or shame or whatever because they thought they were better," Hemmings said.  "But after they digest that and they look again and they realize that they see the beauty of what's happened. I feel like being visible says to the world, see we're just like you...yeah we're a little different but we're just like you and that's a really special feeling to me, I really feel like I belong."

Diane Whitcom said, "Well I think that's what this team is about. It's new, we're setting an example in this traditional Hawaiian sport to say hey, get out of the chair. you might have something a little wrong with you but you don't have to lay around. there's something you can do."

If you'd like to donate to the group, click on the link to the side of this story.

Powered by Frankly