Drive to Spare
May is National Mobility Awareness Month and alumnus, Josh Newey, is doing his part to get the word out.
After a snowmobile accident in January of 1997, the 2005 graduate became quadriplegic. He was 19. It took three years of rehabilitation, hard work and perseverance, but Mr. Newey was able to attend Bridgewater. During his time at the institution, he was involved on many fronts, becoming part of the school’s Peer Educator Program, manager of the swim team, and an employee of the fitness center. He now works three days per week as a marketing specialist with a company in Canton.
As part of this month’s activities designed to raise awareness around mobility issues, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association is asking people to vote for a local hero through May 10, who will be awarded one of three new, specially equipped vans. Mr. Newey’s van is falling apart and he hopes to garner the necessary votes to be in the running for one of these prizes.
BSU swim coach and Mr. Newey’s roommate during their years at Bridgewater, Michael Caruso, said he can’t think of a more worthy “hero.”
“He’s a great guy, fantastic,” he said. “We would do anything for this young man.”
As for Mr. Newey, he hopes his commitment to live life to the fullest and to inspire others to do the same will carry the day.
“I have a love of life and I want that to show through,” he said. To prove he’s kept his sense of humor, his favorite photo has Mr. Newey in his wheelchair next to a sign that says “no standing.”
Recently we chatted with this Bridgewater resident about the issue of mobility awareness and the contest.
Q: Can you tell us about the contest?
A: The goal is to get in the top five percent of vote getters; that gets you to the semifinals. Then interviews will be held to decide who wins.
Q: Is there a need for more awareness around mobility issues?
A: Yes. Three years post injury I was lucky enough to be able to physically and financially take on driving again. This wasn’t new technology in 2000, and hand controls had been around for a decade or more at that time. Yet to this day I’ll be parked somewhere and kids come up and say, ‘How do you do that?’ They’ve never seen anything like it. More awareness is also important because there are others out there with a disability who aren’t aware that these types of things exist and are there for them.
Q: What does the ability to drive yourself mean to you?
A: It’s hard to put into words how much it means. I was a very active and outgoing kid. I was never into stick-and-ball sports, I was into recreational vehicles and I operated equipment for a job after high school. I was into operating things and driving things, and losing the ability to do this was huge. So the day I got that back was big. Before that, friends were gracious enough to give me rides, but you had to coordinate everything. Once I got the van, the pendulum swung the other way. I’d say, ‘Let me give you a ride.’ Mentally it was huge. It was probably bigger for me than others in my situation, based on the fact that I loved driving.
Q: What would a new van mean?
A: It would be a huge stress reliever. I have used up this van. It has 200,000 miles on it, and I put every one of them on there. It’s old and tired and not reliable anymore. I work in Canton and I can take it back and forth to work. But much beyond that I get nervous. If people could share the link at the end of the story with their family, friends, coworkers and community groups, it would help get the vote out and promote this great cause to the largest number of people possible. To vote for Mr. Newey as a local hero log on to: www.voteforjosh.net.
(Photo submitted, story by John Winters, G ’11, University Advancement)