RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — “I was at work and hit with a level a pain that knocked me to the floor,” Bill Sweeney was suffering a stroke on his spine. It would forever change the Richmonder’s life.
February 22, 2012, Sweeney actually died and was revived.
“He’ll live or die, he will have brain damage or not and he will certainly be paralyzed. That’s what I woke up to,” says Sweeney.
Now the once active and athletic man suddenly found himself bound to a wheelchair, or so he thought.
“I was able to get in a pool and learn how to the swim,” says Sweeney who was introduced to Sportable.
“He’ll live or die, he will have brain damage or not and he will certainly be paralyzed. That’s what I woke up to.”
“Swimming and kayaking and rowing, wheelchair basketball. We create opportunities and transform lives,” says Hunter Leemon Executive Director for Sportable.
Sportable is a local non-profit that creates boundless opportunities for those with physical and visual disabilities through sports.
“Our athletes are either wheelchair users, amputees or they have visual impairments,” explains Leemon.
Sportable offers 12 sports and serves 600 athletes; some who have even gone to the Paralympics.
“It made me know that if I can dream it, there’s a possibility,” says Sweeney.
For Sweeney, in just a few years he has gone kayaking, raced in a 10K and has done two open swims.
“This idea of having the courage to live beyond your dreams, that is one thing I love about this man,” says Cynthia Schmitz, Sweeney’s girlfriend.
“Swimming and kayaking and rowing, wheelchair basketball. We create opportunities and transform lives.”
That is why on Thanksgiving weekend, when Sweeney celebrates a union with Schmitz, at Sportable, the couple is turning their reception into a fundraiser for the organization that has given them so much.
“He is so courageous but it is not only Bill that can do it, anybody can,” says Schmitz.
“This is the most amazing and largest life and unbelievable life I have ever lived with a third of the of my capability,” says Sweeney.
“It really is boundless as to what some of these athletes can do,” adds Schmitz.
“Those resources will allow us to reach more athletes. Athletic wheelchairs can cost as much as $5,000.”
And Sweeney, who continues to dream big, has a surprise for his guests.
“Either with the crutches or the walker, I will be walking in,” says Sweeney.
With the help of an exoskeleton, Sweeney’s been training at Sheltering Arms in Mechanicsville to make a grand entrance into the reception.
“To be able to stand next to him to see what it feels like to be next to him and have a kiss. He’s around 6 feet he’s taller than I thought,” says Schmitz.
“The ability to stand and move. It’s an incredible gift of freedom,” says Sweeney.
If you too would like to donate to Sportable, you can learn more here.
Want to know more about that exoskeleton Bill Sweeney was walking with?
8News talked with Mac McElroy President of the Sheltering Arms Foundation about the device.
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