In 1996, on the verge of becoming a professional surfer, Jesse Billauer sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) while surfing. Though his injury resulted in quadriplegia, Jesse's spirit was not broken, and the phrase "Life Rolls On" was born. The Billauer family organized golf tournaments to raise money for Jesse's cost-prohibitive medical bills. Within a few years, however, the philosophy changed -- there was a bigger issue at hand.
In 1999, these events no longer offset the family's medical expenses. Instead funds were directed to leading spinal cord injury research facilities around the country. Honorary Chairpersons Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell lent their names to the efforts.
A year later, international model and actress Angie Everhart chaired a golf tournament which raised significant funding for spinal cord injury research. The momentum was building.
About this same time, the love of the ocean was too much for Billauer to bear. With the help of friends and professional surfer Rob Machado, Jesse found himself back in the ocean, surfing again. Soon these efforts would be showcased in the motion picture, "Step Into Liquid."
On September 11, 2001, Billauer teamed up with "They Will Surf Again" (TWSA) a foundation with similar goals to introduce adaptive surfing for the paralysis community. Co-chaired by professional surfers, Kelly Slater and Rob Machado, the event received international attention, which extended beyond the U.S. to Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom.
In March of 2002, the Internal Revenue Service officially recognized LRO as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, creating "Life Rolls On Foundation" (LRO). LRO’s mission was to fund spinal cord injury research and educate the public about spinal cord injury. What began as a small family effort quickly emerged into something larger.
The same year, the U.S. Open of Surfing named Life Rolls On as its official charity. Now celebrating its 10 year anniversary in this role, LRO continues to educate more than 100,000 people attending the event about spinal cord injury and is featured in an adaptive surfing exhibition during the world’s largest surfing competition.
Throughout the years, LRO continued to raise awareness and funds for spinal cord injury research, which included benefit concerts featuring talented musicians such as Jackson Browne, Matt Costa, Timmy Curran, Minnie Driver, Ziggy Marley, Jason Mraz, The Offspring, Slightly Stoopid, Switchfoot, and others.
In 2004, "They Will Surf Again" merged with LRO and Life Rolls On established TWSA as its signature program. On October 17, with a handful of surfers and volunteers, LRO's first They Will Surf Again (TWSA) was produced in Newport Beach, CA. Growing from a single event to an award-winning program with event sites in nine cities across seven states, TWSA continues to expand, launching ancillary adaptive skate and snowboarding programs, They Will SKATE Again (TWSkateA) and They Will SKI Again (TWSkiA), respectively. These unique programs continue to make a profound impact on the lives of thousands of people living with paralysis, along with the volunteers who help make dreams possible.
Life Rolls On has been featured in numerous media outlets, including: Ability magazine, CNN, Extreme Makeover-Home Edition, Fuel-TV, Good Morning America, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, The Non-Profit Times, Surfer magazine, TODAY, Transworld Surf, and many more.
Recognizing it can make a larger and more meaningful impact through its quality of life efforts, LRO no longer directly funds spinal cord injury research. Instead, the organization refined its mission to a single purpose: to improve the quality of life for young people affected by spinal cord injury. LRO proudly provides adaptive action sports programs; foster spinal cord injury awareness; and offers outreach to individuals and their families at the onset of injury.
In 2013 Life Rolls On Founder Jesse Billauer assumed the role of Executive Director/CEO and he couldn't be more excited to lead the next generation of LRO's vision.