There are opportunities in life that have the ability to make you keenly aware of just how good you have it. One of those experiences occurred for me in 1999, when U.S. Paralympian and friend Scot Hollonbeck called to see if I would come to Ecuador. With so many years of travel under my belt I was frankly weary about how difficult this trip could be, but quickly realized this was for all the right reasons. Momentum International was run by Hollonbeck’s close friend Manuel Cardenas, who along with a team of athletes, physicians and therapist were striving to get the word out to the disabled people in South America. What we took away from that journey was a truer appreciation of just how lucky we are here in the United States. It was instantly evident how very difficult disability is for people who had antiquated wheelchairs, little access to medical necessities and semi-limited medical attention. Needless to say, wheelchair accessibility was sketchy at best and perhaps the least of their problems.
“In Pursuit” Producer, Rich Jayne and I set out of San Diego on what was a very long journey. Catching a connector to Ecuador, then onto a military transport plane and finally a bus ride through the mountains landed us in the mountain town of Loja. It was a beautiful, scenic and friendly town. Rich and I sat down for a production meeting just so we could layout the shoot. We knew it would be multifaceted due to the fact that this was not just about athletics. We scrambled each day to find the best opportunities to tell this story, and do it justice.
Just over a year later, I was announcing at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Paralympics in Australia. Working the “tunnel” as teams came out toward the stadium, I spotted Manuel. I remember pulling him aside for an interview and seeing him literally beaming with pride that he was able to build a small Paralympic team. For a man with his level of commitment, this was a dream come true. Momentum International had not only raised awareness in South America, but furthermore it fielded a team on the biggest stage in disabled sport. There is so much more to be said, however the video says it all.