Freedom To Move
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Freedom To Move
Ron Heagy had a reason to be in New York City on Sept. 11. He came to celebrate the premiere of a TV segment on his dream-come-true: a camp for kids with disabilities. He left the devastated city with a new dream: The Freedom to Move Fund, an attempt to address poor evacuation procedures and other barriers for people with disabilities.
Heagy has a history of turning visions into reality. "It was all there," he recalls of his camp idea: "A wooded setting near a river with a flat meadow and an accessible tree house, and pairing up kids with disabilities with the 'bad attitude' kids"--the ones he tries to reach with his positive message. Heagy, a C2-3 quad since 1980, is a motivational speaker for Life is an Attitude, his nonprofit educational organization.
Then one day he saw the real thing--34 acres that matched his vision. But Heagy had no money, his speaking business was struggling and he couldn't swing a hammer. How could he buy land and build an accessible camp?
True to the attitude he champions, he convinced the reluctant owners to sell on contract and hocked everything he had for a down payment. Then he started doing what he does best: talking. "I didn't even ask for money. I'd just talk about this dream I had to church groups, businesses, schools, and someone would come up afterwards and say how they'd like to help."
Arizona school kids raised thousands that went into the property. A water well was needed, and the sellers decided to put it in out of their own pockets. By summer of 2000 the main building was ready, cabins built, the water was in, the tree house up. "Camp Attitude" was ready to roll.
In New York, Martin Luther King III heard of Heagy's success. King was working on a 13-week television series called Wisdom of the Dream for the satellite-based WISDOM Television. Heagy was invited to film a segment, which was tapped to be the premiere show. King flew Heagy, family, and friends to New York City. The premiere date? Sept. 11, 2001.
That morning Heagy's hotel room came alive with TV coverage of the WTC disaster. "As I'm watching," Heagy says, "I can't help thinking how many people in wheelchairs are in there." Later, after both towers had collapsed, Heagy went into the streets. "They were deserted--no traffic--people walking around numb. And the image of people in wheelchairs waiting in stairwells was stuck in my mind." It was a different kind of dream, a nightmare really, but for Heagy, attitude is everything. It wasn't long before he started talking about it to anyone who would listen. Now that talk has taken shape as the Freedom to Move Fund, a proactive program to eliminate barriers. A major component of the fund? "Freedom to move in times of danger, requiring minimal assistance from others."
Now Heagy tells his audiences: "You want us to be free to work and pay taxes, and we're thankful for that, but we don't yet have the freedom to move out of a building when it means saving our lives." To learn more, contact Life Is An Attitude, P.O. Box 1869, Albany, OR 97321; 541/924-1400.
Gotta Ditch the Quad