The PossAbilities Speaker’s Bureau consists of PossAbilities members and community advocates that represent the program at a variety of speaking engagements. By sharing their stories and unique perspective on life, they are role models and inspire each of us to do our part to make the world a better place.
Growing up in Compton, California, sports were my life. It didn’t matter if it was football, baseball, or basketball – I had a passion for them all. A strong desire to succeed in these sports occupied the majority of my time. Another desire as a child was to ride in a jet plane. I remember asking my mom one day if I would ever be able to ride in a jet plane. Her response has been a motivation for many of my successes in life. She replied, “All young men that go to college and become professional athletes get to ride in those planes”. From that moment on, my mind was set; I was going to college to become a professional athlete. After graduating from Compton High School, I attended Harbor Community College (HCC) to play football. While at HCC, I was named a Junior All-American Outside Linebacker. This gave me the opportunity to earn a spot on Grambling State University’s football team, an NCAA Division I school. As a Grambling Tiger, I played well enough to receive an invitation to tryout for the Los Angeles Raiders. It wouldn’t be easy, but I wanted to accomplish two things – to make the team and to get a chance to ride on a plane. I did get a chance to ride on a plane, but I did not make the team and was released from the Raiders. As fate would have it, I was good enough to make an Arena Football team and gained enormous experience in the AFL. Through that experience,I received a second invitation to tryout with the Raiders andanother opportunity to play in the NFL. That opportunity came to a screeching halt when, celebrating the second invitation with friends, I was shot six times in the back. This was bittersweet to me because, though I was shot, I protected a friend from being injured or killed. This happenstance left me paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. With time, support and love from my family, I’ve learned to embrace the unique gift that God has provided me. I thank Him every day for a second chance. I may be paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but to me this is minor to me. I’ve had, and continue to have the wonderful opportunity to enjoy life to its fullest. We all have many choices in life, and in the 19 years since my injury, I’ve chosen to make my passion helping young people in our community. I still enjoy football, baseball and basketball, but now am able to pass on my experience and perspective on life through coaching. I’ve had the good fortune of coaching four football championship teams at the Junior College level, as well as a winning a championship at the NCAA Division III level. I’ve learned that in life, it’s not what you go through, but it’s how you go through it.
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On July 14, 2000, Delmon Dunston was practicing wrestling moves with a friend, performing a double leg take down when his head hit his grappling partner’s hip. The force from the move shattered his sixth vertebrae in his neck. Del was rushed to Loma Linda University Medical Center where doctors discovered that he not only shattered his vertebrae but injured his spinal cord as well. As a result of the injuries sustained, Del was paralyzed from the chest down. For two years after the accident Del tried to piece his life back together. In August 2003, Del was asked by a friend to attend a wheelchair rugby demo. Seeing all of the people who had suffered similar injuries, who were able to compete again inspired Del. Rugby became the spark that was needed to reignite his competitive fire. Del wasted no time turning those long discouraging days into training sessions. With the help of the accessible gym equipment provided by the PossAbilities program at the Drayson Center, Del started his arduous workouts.”It was like I was given a purpose again, not only to better myself but inspire others who are trying to find their way as a newly disabled individual”. Since then, Del not only does peer support at LLUMC, he has gone on to become a spokesmodel for internationally renowned fashion designer Kenneth Cole. He has competed on the USQRA National Team, played on the D II National Championship team, managed the Crown Rugby team, and was invited to try out for the United States Olympic team in 2005, 2006 and 2007. His future goals are to compete in triathlons, make the World Champion Rugby Team in 2010, compete in the 2012 US Paralympic games in London, and continue as an advocate for PossAbilities on their Speaker’s Bureau.
On January 27, 2010, while driving home early in the morning, Owen lost control of his vehicle causing it to roll over and eject him from the vehicle. Conscious for the whole event, he knew right away that he was paralyzed. The ambulance rushed him to Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC) where he was diagnosed as a T10 paraplegic. After going through a few weeks of rehabilitation at LLUMC East Campus, Owen was sent home where life seemed much harder to cope with than he ever imagined. After months of sitting around, he finally told himself that his injury would not stop him from being who he was. Before the accident, he was a very active guy and he vowed to himself that he would be that guy again. Luckily he had an active friend who was in a wheelchair. Owen asked him to point him in the right direction. His friend introduced him to PossAbilities. Owen finally felt like he belonged and suddenly felt he had a lot to look forward to. His arrogant disposition combined with his sparkling personality fired a spark and interest in handcycling. Through PossAbilities, he was provided a loaner bike, then 3 months later he competed in his first triathlon. Reaching out to help others became an important part of Owen’s life. He learned that through sharing his story, he was able to give others hope like that which was given to him. Owen started volunteering for PossAbilities and eventually completed his training to become a peer visitor and spokesperson for the program. Since then he has strived to inspire others with injuries and even those without to get out and be active. Owen is currently competing in triathlons but his passion is for handcycling. He is currently training to reach his goal to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Paralympics. He continues to volunteer and help others to never forget that “ambition is priceless!”
Carrie is a 4th generation San Francisco Bay Area native, sports lover, and competitive athlete. From age 5 until her early 20′s, Carrie was a talented soccer, basketball and softball athlete. Since she survived a catastrophic motor vehicle collision, leaving her paralyzed at age 22, Carrie began searching for a new purpose in life. To fulfill her new purpose, Carrie earned her Paralegal Studies Certificate from San Francisco State University with honors in 2009. She is continuing her education there, working toward her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with plans to attend law school. Carrie often volunteers her time mentoring people with new spinal cord injuries and advocating for rights and change to help to make life better for people with disabilities. An avid handcyclist, she is currently competing for a spot on the US Paralympics National Cycling Team. Riding handcycles for recreation quickly evolved into the need to race and compete which is consistent with Carrie’s athletic nature.
David Bailey was born in San Diego, Calif., in 1961. When he was very young, his parents split, and after a couple years living with his father, David went to live with his mother, who had remarried. Her new husband, Gary Bailey, was a pioneer of American Motocross and was known as the professor motocross. David was a quick study and won the amateur national championship in 1978. He turned professional the following year and was picked up and sponsored by Honda. David’s career skyrocketed as he racked up six titles and five Team USA titles, including numerous other races such as the Superbowl of Motocross at the LA Coliseum and the US Grand Prix at Carlsbad on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. In 1986, David and his wife, Gina, were married and spent their honeymoon in Kona, Hawaii. It was there that David got his first taste of triathlon and the desire to do the Hawaii Ironman. Three months later, he crashed and broke his back, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. After a couple years of depression, David, wife, and son, Sean, moved from Virginia back to California. David began working as a designer and a TV commentator for motocross. He also competed in marathons across the country. Eventually he returned to Hawaii to race in the handcycle division of the Ironman in 1998 to 2000, finally winning that division in 2000. From there, David continued doing TV work and coached young riders, but soon developed a pressure sore that snowballed into a couple years of surgeries and misery. With much prayer, David experienced a miraculous recovery at Loma Linda University Medical Center. David returned to Kona, Hawaii in 2009 and finished the Ironman, showing once again his tenacity, determination, and faith. David says, “Tough times are necessary to make you stronger.” David is now healthy again and coaching others who have suffered similar injuries. He is one of the newest additions to the PossAbilities Speakers Bureau.
Bill Nessel, born in Chicago, had skills in welding, a career in life insurance sales, and was a business owner and pressman. In 1974, he joined the San Bernardino County Sheriff ’s Department as a reserve deputy doing mounted search and rescue and law enforcement. While he was a reserve deputy he managed to operate his printing businesses at the same time. It was there that he was a unit commander twice and a reserve deputy chief for three years. In 1997, he retired from the department, where he had ridden horses for 13 years and 4wd ATVs the last ten years. He completed 23 years of service and became the “Godfather” of the ATV program in the county. In 2002, his whole world changed. He became a right-leg-above-the-knee amputee as a result of having been a smoker for 43 years. He had nine surgeries on his right leg and was in the hospital for six weeks. He almost didn’t come home. He felt that instead of hitting a bump in life’s road, he had hit a huge pothole. He was fortunate enough to find a local amputee support group where he attended meetings. Nessel says, “I can’t express enough what a huge help that group became. I decided early on that life does go on and I should make the best of it.” He feels he was spared for a reason— to help other amputees just as he had been helped. Bill is very involved in the disabled community. In addition to being a proud member of PossAbilities, volunteer at Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus (LLUMCEC) and a certified amputee peer visitor Bill participates in and supports the following organizations: the Amputee Coalition (AC), the Inland Empire Disabilities Collaborative (IEDC), the Amputee Connection of Redlands and The Limb Connections (TLC). He is also known for making a mean jar of mustard! We applaud Bill for his boundless spirit of giving and all his great work in our community!