When I worked at the Pine Island Eagle as the editor, a musician on the island, Kip, shared a story he thought I might be interested in, which of course I was.
Kip reached out to me again. At the beginning of March, he asked if I was doing freelance work and then told me of an inspiring story, one he thought I would be interested in writing.
“I wrote you because I know your passion for writing,” Kip told me. “Of all the writers I know, you take writing seriously and do it well.”
That inspiring story, was the same one I shared in the Eagle, but this time with more information.
So, here is the inspiring story of his brother:
Jay Lawrence was a high school jock, earning the most valuable player his junior year at Cape Coral High School before continuing on to college to pursue baseball.
A year after he began college, he started working for a friend of his father’s in Cape Coral, Florida at 20-years-old. After working for the business and learning how to use machines for cabinet manufacturing, three months later he was offered a 25 percent profit share to run the store in a new location, West Palm Beach.
Britain Wood Working was opened.
“The fourth month that we were there, 21 days before my 21st birthday I fell asleep,” Jay said.
He fell asleep behind the wheel of his truck at 2 a.m. August 3, 1996, when he flipped it.
“I remember waking up and my head was stuck,” Jay continued, adding that he was trying to pull himself out before blacking out again. “I remember them putting me into a helicopter and asking a guy if anyone else was hurt.”
When Jay woke again, he was in the hospital.
Jay, although wasn’t drinking, went out to the bars with a few friends that night. He said it had been a long day, waking up early, working all day, and then going out that night.
The accident had broke Jay’s neck at the C5, 6 level, which left him paralyzed from his mid chest down.
“I can move my arms, but I can’t use my triceps and can’t open and close my hands,” he said.
Jay was transferred back to Fort Myers on August 24.
“You are used to the first 20 years of your life,” he said, which drastically changed after the accident.
Now everything is somewhat of a challenge for the now 39-year-old.
Although a nurse visits him at his home in the morning and evening, things he would take for granted, such as a simple task of getting out of bed to get something to eat if he was hungry, before his accident, now has to wait until the nurse visits again.
Although faced with new obstacles, Jay pushed on and decided to help others who have also experienced the same injuries.
“He is now 39 and has been a quadriplegic for almost 20 years, but has a zest for life rarely seen,” Kip wrote to me.
This man, continues touching the world, all from his wheelchair.
After the accident, Jay started a chapter of the Buoniconti Fund, a project to cure paralysis, in Southwest Florida, which is no longer active.
He decided he wanted to form his own organization instead.
In 2009, he began Hands Up Charity. The charity helps getting equipment and supplies for people that need them and do not have the means to purchase them. Jay said they have provided such items as electric wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, adaptive bikes and an assortment of medical equipment.
For more information, visit: http://www.facebook.com/pages/HANDS-UP-CHARITY/166458918338.
Jay said they are always looking for donations, so they can continue the organizations efforts.
With his organization slowly getting up and running, he started working at a new job.
In 2008, Jay began working part-time as a sales representative for the Florida Stingrays Arena Team before becoming the sales manager. Once the owners of the team were let go, Jay became the general manager.
“I wanted to figure out a way to make it come back after the owners were gone,” he said of the team.
The Florida Stingrays football organization is a semi-pro football team that is comprised of 45 players. The games are held at Rutenberg Park in Fort Myers. The organization hopes to move to some of the high school fields in the near future. The Stingrays travel north to Tampa for games and as far south as Miami.
Now the team is doing really well, with a 6-1 record this year.
“We are marching towards the playoffs,” he said.
About six year’s ago, Jay began thinking of ways to further make the team successful, which are slowly coming to fruition.
Jay said he is working towards launching a few programs for the Stingray team, one in which resembles the Green Bay Packers organization, which has been publicly owned as a nonprofit corporation since 1923. Jay said lawyers are working on documentation, so they can apply for Florida law, giving the community an opportunity to become shareholders of the team.
Jay said there will be 10,000 shares available at $100 per share.
“The community will be able to come in and be part of the team and be able to vote,” he said. “The team will not have an owner per say.”
This new program, will provide an opportunity to take the team to the next level; therefore offering insurance for the players and opportuntiies for them to further their education. Jay said he wants to provide the opportunity for the players to further their education at a local college, university, tech or trade school.
Another program includes, “Sponsor a Future Stingray Program,” allowing businesses in the community to sponsor kids for $25. He said it is important to give kids access to meet the players.
“We want them to be mentors, provide a positive role model for kids with the community,” Jay said of the players.
In either May or June, “The Journey Man,” a documentary about the Stingray football team will be released.
Jay’s story just goes to show that wonderful things can happen, as long as you push on and make the most of your life.