I am LRO: Chelsie Hill
On February 21, 2010, life changed drastically for 18 year-old high school senior Chelsie Hill. As a passenger in a truck driven by an alleged teenage drunk driver, she sustained a spinal cord injury after the vehicle veered off the road into a tree. Now paralyzed from the waist down, the accident was particularly devastating for the life-long dancer, but Chelsie is resilient.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the leading cause of death for Americans 15 to 20 years old is motor vehicle collisions. No one understands that grim reality more clearly than Chelsie Hill, who was among five teenagers seriously injured as a result of an alleged drunk driving accident. After being airlifted to a trauma center, Hill spent two months in the hospital and endured three surgeries to fuse her broken back. She is now paralyzed as a result of a T-10 spinal cord injury (SCI).
"Running along the beach or being able to dance with my dad at my wedding ... it's hard," said Hill, when discussing things she took for granted prior to her accident. Not one to linger on what could have been, this inspiring teen instead focuses her energy on the possibilities that lie ahead.
Three months following her injury, Chelsie returned to high school and now shares her story with others, hoping to make a difference. "Use a buddy system," she advises classmates. "As cheesy at that sounds, I wish someone would have told me, 'Hey, what you are doing ... stop.'"
In addition to speaking engagements and her work with "Every 15 Minutes," a program that educates teens about the dangerous consequences of drinking or texting while driving, she is trying to change legislation to prevent future driving accidents for teens. Together with her father, Jon, Hill created a petition that would require high school students to complete the California Highway Patrol's "Start Smart" safe teen driving program prior to receiving their driver's license. The two-hour course, designed for students and their parents, aims to create greater awareness about the importance of safe driving and the consequences when poor decisions are made.
Recovery still plays a major role in Chelsie's life; so, much of her free time is spent at Project Walk, a recovery center in Carlsbad, CA. It was through friends made at Project Walk that she learned of Life Rolls On and its adaptive surfing program, They Will Surf Again. "Being able to lie down and surf was indescribable," said Hill, who joined in the fun at TWSA-La Jolla earlier this year. "I couldn't stop smiling!"
On October 17, Chelsie and her father also joined Life Rolls On at Night by the Ocean, the organization's signature fundraising gala in Beverly Hills, CA. The festivities culminated with a chance encounter that would bring the teen back to her love of dance. It was at the event that she met members of the Colours in Motion dancers, which includes LRO Ambassador Briana Walker. Following Night by the Ocean, she auditioned to become a member of the professional wheelchair dance team and made the cut! "I'm so thankful to be a part of the Colours in Motion dance team," said Chelsie. "It has taught me that even with a spinal cord injury, you can still pursue your dreams."
Jon Hill noticed a "fire" in his daughter after she participated in They Will Surf Again. "She was so excited she couldn't stop talking about other events coming up," he said. "Then, when we went to Night by the Ocean, we had a better understanding that there truly can be a wonderful life after SCI." He continued, "As a father who felt completely powerless over my daughter's situation, I spiraled into depression. LRO played a huge part in my recovery by blessing my daughter with positive hope!"
Life Rolls On is humbled to have played a small role in Chelsie's remarkable journey and we are delighted that her fire continues to shine brightly. "I can't wait to try skating and snowboarding! Those are my next goals," said Hill.
Looks like we have our first sign-up for LRO's They Will Skate Again and They Will Ski Again.