Today I wrote a letter to Oprah. I'm sure no one will ever see it, but I tried anyway. While I was trying to cram one of the most amazing people I know into under 2,000 words, I found myself getting really really frustrated. There are not enough words in any language to express the deserved admiration and awe I have for my friend Jesse Billauer and everything he has done and continues to do to raise awareness and money to cure spinal cord injuries. More than that, he inspires injured, disabled and able-bodied people with his never-say-die attitude. He was one of the top 100 surfers in the WORLD and had a tragic surfing accident which rendered him a quadriplegic. Instead of giving up, like most would, he decided that he was on a new journey and continued to live bigger than ever. Since his accident he started a foundation called Life Rolls On and speaks publicly about his accident. He speaks about how he chooses to carry on and continue to surf and try new things. He lets kids know that they can accomplish anything they choose and that nothing should be an obstacle in their lives, but rather, challenges should propel them. Jesse never lets you feel sorry for him. I actually find that I forget about his wheel chair after spending five minutes with him.
As I mentioned, I was getting frustrated because 1. This cause is so important and people act like because not everyone dies, it is less urgent to find a cure and 2. Since the tragic death of Christopher Reeve this cause has fallen off of the map somewhat. It really isn't the topic of conversation like cancer and aids (all awful and I pray will be cured as well of course). It's appalling that Superman had to suffer such an awful fate for the world to take notice of such a worthy and important cause. Spinal cord injuries do not discriminate! Such an injury can literally happen to anyone at any age.
Now, I will probably offend a lot of people here but, let's get it together. This cause is so important not only because of its profound effect on injured person, but the entire family, financially, emotionally, etc. Some communities are effected by the financial burden and requirements of someone with a spinal cord injury. This is a complete life change and so wasteful. Most people who suffer a spinal cord injury are independent, outgoing and extremely athletic people. A lot are pro-athletes like Jesse. This is a forever situation with no light at the end of the tunnel. Again, just so wasteful.
Jesse doesn't necessarily share this view. He continues to surf, skydive, ski and even dive with Great White Sharks. Jesse and his foundation Life Goes On share Jesse's dream of continuing with his love of sports, adventure and especially his surfing, with other injured people. Some of these people have literally never been out of their chairs and Life Rolls On gets them on a surfboard and into the ocean! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1NtrwAOhwM&feature=related, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrbauvOB2I0
I guess I just wish his story was told more often and the wonderful work he is doing be recognized on a global scale. Most of all I would love to see he jump up out of his chair and really do all of the things he was meant to. Things do happen for a reason and the path Jesse is on has helped thousands and thousands of people and has definitely changed my life, but it just seems like something we can fix. I also just want the world to know what I know about Jesse. He is a miracle.
Please check out Jesse at: www.jessebillauer.com, give to Life Rolls On at www.liferollson.org and rent "Jesse's Story", great movie!!
Side note * I feel very strongly about Juvenile Diabetes in the same way. This is another debilitating disease that is so unnecessary and such a huge and dangerous burden on entire families when one child is affected by this disease. It is something lived with for a lifetime and should be cured!