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Mike after accident

The Challenge.

Our Mission: Driving to raise international awareness and funds for enabling technologies, which will improve freedom, independence and acceptance for people with disabilities.

A Fork in the Road

It was a warm, sunny spring day when Mike Nemesvary and some friends set up his trampoline on the grass in the garden. It was a good way to practice moves during the off-season.

"Everything was fine until I lost my orientation to the ground in the middle of a back somersault," Mike recalls. He came down hard, with his neck smacking the bed of the trampoline. "I was calm, but scared. I wasn't in pain, but rather, I felt a warm tingling go through my body." As his friends ran to his aid, Mike realized he couldn't move. He had broken his neck at the fourth and fifth cervical.

For a decade, Mike Nemesvary was a world-class athlete in the exciting sport of freestyle skiing. He ranked number three in the world, having won 11 Canadian and five British titles and three World Cup events. He worked as a stuntman in a James Bond movie. It was a great life, full of travel, media attention and social status.

In a split second, his life was changed forever, as it does for more than 1,000 Canadians each year who sustain a spinal cord injury. He will never walk again and has only limited use of his hands and arms. He had reached a fork in the road of life.

He was, in a strange way, fortunate. The same personal qualities that had made him a successful athlete --- a positive attitude, competitive spirit, intense focus, tenacity and being very goal-oriented -- enabled him to face his new life successfully. He started his own business giving seminars across the country, and worked as the Education Coordinator for The Rehabilitation Centre in Ottawa.

He soon realized that, although his life would never be the same, technology enabled him to do more than most people would believe possible.

He put plans in motion to become the first quadriplegic to drive around the world. Locating corporate sponsors and organizing a team of supporters, Mike created 'Round the World Challenge. The trip would demonstrate how enabling technologies could empower people with disabilities as well as raise money for spinal cord rehabilitation and research.

The Road Least Travelled

Imagine driving around the world -- a trip of more than 40,000 kilometres! Travelling through 20 countries, each with there own cultures, laws and driving styles, often on unpaved roads, and trying to keep on schedule. Now imagine doing it all driving from a wheelchair in a heavily modified vehicle. That was part of the challenge that faced Mike.

Leaving Ottawa on March 20, 2001, the 'Round the World Challenge story was followed by the media in Canada and worldwide during the long months ahead.

Mike did all of the driving himself in a specially equipped truck that he still drives every day. It symbolizes the kind of technology that empowers the disabled and made the trip possible. His electric powered wheelchair provides another degree of freedom.

"Travelling worldwide by vehicle is not easy for anyone," Mike admits. "Long hours at the wheel -- driving from my wheelchair -- really tested my concentration, stamina and physical endurance."

During the grueling trip, he raised over $1 million and provided a living example of the incredible accomplishments that can be achieved by people with even severe disabilities. "In countries like Iran, Pakistan and India, a high-level spinal cord injury is a death sentence. People don't survive because too often, medical facilities don't have the equipment or the knowledge base to deal with such injuries. Those who do survive, are bed-ridden for the rest of their lives or end up using skateboards or shopping carts to get around, propelling themselves with their hands."

It was an eye-opening experience to see the reactions of the people in such countries. "I was deeply touched to see them being fascinated by me…a quadriplegic, driving this big truck and using an electric powered wheelchair to move around effortlessly. Many had never seen such technology."

The "Challenge" culminated on October 23, 2001 with a triumphant return to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, which included a warm welcome home from the Government of Canada, hundreds of well wishers and national media. By all accounts, 'Round the World Challenge was a huge success!

The Drive Continues...

'Round the World Challenge needs your help to reach a new destination. In Canada alone there are about 35,000 Canadians with spinal cord injuries and every year more than 1,000 additional injuries occur.

Our new drive is no longer around the world. It is a funding drive. The heart of this new drive is shown clearly in our new mission statement:

Driving to raise international awareness and funds for enabling technologies, which will improve freedom, independence and acceptance for people with disabilities.

We are proud of the personal qualities that enabled Mike and 'Round the World Challenge to achieve our first goal. Drive, determination, a refusal to quit or make concessions, loyalty and compassion, all played a major role. Those same qualities are now being applied to raise funds and awareness through a variety of projects.

We are going to raise $10 million for an endowment. Money will come, in part, through corporate sponsorships, book and video sales, special events and other activities we have planned, but individual donations are still the most important component. We need you to push us along this new road.

...more about Spinal Cord Injury







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