VESTAL, N.Y. (NewsNation/WIVT) — Liam Wagner’s life changed forever when a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed below the waist.
Thanks to forearm crutches and determination, he’s walking again, and challenging himself to walk an entire mile while raising money for the organization that helped him turn his life around.
Wagner heads over to the Vestal Rail Trail three times a week to practice his walking. Since his injury, some of his nerves have come back and he now has some function down to his knees.
“On the side of the road I was waist-down paralyzed. There was nothing there, and to be able to be upright at the same level as everyone else, just feels incredible,” Wagner said.
Wagner originally targeted a mile as a personal goal. He acquired forearm crutches about a month ago and is already walking over 0.6 of a mile.
“When I look up and I’m on the rail trail and I see all these other people walking and I’m like, ‘I’m at the same height as them, I’m doing it’, it’s just so incredible,” Wagner said. “I do absolutely take a moment and just go, ‘This is never ever where I thought I would be four years ago.”
Wagner explained his life began to turn around when he first tried skiing with Greek Peak Adaptive Sports.
“The first day I went down that hill, I was hooked,” Wagner said. “I instantly got so attached to the sport that I had to figure out a way to get my own adaptive equipment, so I can go try to travel the country.”
The adaptive tool, known as a Monoski, costs $8,000.
That’s where the Kelly Brush Foundation came in. The foundation helps people with disabilities purchase adaptive equipment.
It gave Wagner $4,000, and he raised the rest from the community through a Facebook fundraiser.
“Every single time I go out, it gets a little bit easier. I get a little bit more familiar with where my balance needs to be without being able to feel the bottoms of my feet. So it’s definitely an interesting movement, but ultimately I think one mile is doable.”
When the pandemic forced the Kelly Brush Foundation to cancel its annual fundraising event scheduled for Sept. 12, Wagner decided to hold his own event on that date, finally completing his mile with his brother Eric by his side.
But when friends and family heard about it, over 100 people asked to join in.
Now he hopes “Liam’s Milestone” can raise funds so that others can get the adaptive equipment that will transform their lives.
“It’s really something I hold dear to my heart,” Wagner said. “I have to make a difference in my community. It was a horrible thing that happened, but ultimately it’s such a positive and I really don’t think I’d change a thing.”