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Inspiration: Founder Norbert Holowat's Story

On July 5th of 2019 my life changed forever. I was visiting some friends for the Fourth of July weekend in PA, when I hesitated on a frontflip into a pool. I didn’t like the start of the jump so I did a half dive, my hands hit the slope of the deep end of the pool, which didn’t allow me to break the impact of my forehead in the shallow end. This impact resulted in a spinal cord injury at the cervical level, rendering me a quadriplegic.

I spent 28 days in the ICU, two months in in-patient rehab, and a month in

out-patient rehab before being able to come home to Long Island, in the beginning of November, 2019. By the end of the month I became severely depressed, in just five short months I lost everything. I went from being a completely independent kid, living on his own in Virginia Beach, Virginia as a civil engineer, to relying on someone in order to help me get through my daily functions. I lost my girlfriend who said she didn’t want to be with someone who was paralyzed.

I lost a lot of friends who were too superficial to hang out with me now that I’m in a wheelchair. My at home life became a very negative place where I was surrounded by self destruction and constant fighting. On top of it all my physical therapy went from five days a week to two. I had no purpose in life. On July 28th of that same year, two of my friends passed away in a car accident, Sam and Tim. Early January of 2020 I told myself I might as well join them.

After visiting them for the first time at the cemetery I realized that this isn’t how I want people to have to see me. That I still had a chance at life and I had to make the most of it. When things first started to shut down in the beginning of the pandemic I began pushing my wheelchair around my neighborhood. I wanted to do a 10 mile route dedicated for Sam’s birthday in June, which actually turned into my first ever half-marathon.

I decided that the best way to prove to Sam and Tim that I had the mental toughness and that I was much stronger than I thought, was to do long distance running. I started watching documentaries on Youtube, which led me to IronMan broadcasts. I decided to sign up for the MightyMan Montauk sprint triathlon without having been in a pool since my accident or having tried out an arm road cycle. Sam’s dad helped get me to a friends pool and using a life vest I gained enough confidence to relearn how to swim again. I received a stationary arm cycle where I rigged it to operate the same way as the road cycle would and began training on it.

Through the IM ABLE Foundation I received a road cycle and will be able to go out. It is truly amazing how exercise has changed my life and given me purpose. It has kept me strong during difficult times. And because of this amazing experience, I wanted to help give others purpose and became founder of the Still Standing Foundation where 100% of proceeds go towards gifting handicapable candidates with adaptive sports equipment.


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