When things don’t go according to plan; regroup

I figured I’d share this previous post today since the world is going to end. However, I’m trying to figure out my “Plan B” if it doesn’t. Enjoy – and see you on the other side!

Sometimes things don’t always turn out according to plan. Sometimes tragedy strikes and our life as we knew it comes to a screeching halt. Question is, how do we respond to it?

From victim to hero – This is the story of Richard St. Denis

In 1976, St. Denis fell while skiing in Lake Tahoe, California. The result was a severed spinal cord, a surgery-filled hospital stay and the rest of his life in a wheelchair. “I thought (it) was a horrible tragedy,” said St. Denis, who was an airplane mechanic in the Air Force at the time. “I woke up every morning wishing I was dead … angry at God for taking the ability to walk away from me. … I just stopped wanting anything for my life.” St. Denis rejected most forms of assistance from anyone. But with time — and inspiration from a wheelchair-bound veteran he befriended — he eventually “adjusted” and found a new purpose.



The mission of World Access Project goes beyond a one-time gift. “We don’t just give them a wheelchair and say, ‘Adios,’ ” St. Denis said. “We develop relationships, and we teach people how to use the chair — not just as something to sit in. Volunteers from the United States come down a few times a year to help make the recipients’ homes more wheelchair-accessible, and we host classes and camps to teach people how to play sports with their chairs.”

St. Denis has become a familiar face throughout Mexico, where an estimated 2 million people have some form of disability, according to a government housing census. He is frequently welcomed into homes and greeted kindly wherever he goes, and he has formed relationships with other organizations that serve people with disabilities.

Richard Denis believes his project’s popularity is due, in great part, to a personal connection to the people he serves. “I understand what they’re going through, and they know I understand,” St. Denis said. “We’re conquerors of the limitations in our life.” I love that!

St. Denis said he is now content and comfortable in Mexico, where he lives and works for 10 months out of the year. But he acknowledges that he has received some criticism from friends and family in the United States. “People say, ‘it’s too dangerous in Mexico; why do you go there to help when you can help people in the United States?’ ” he said. “I feel like God has called me to do this. They need a presence here, and what I’m doing is teaching other people so that when the day comes when I can’t come to Mexico anymore, the people of Mexico will continue doing this work. That would be the biggest dream that I could ever imagine.”

Through World Access Project, St. Denis has helped more than 500 people in Mexico. He has also made lifelong friendships and learned that personal losses can be used to transform the lives of others. “One day, someone said, ‘Richard, I want to thank you for giving up your legs so we could have a better quality of life,’ ” St. Denis said. “I didn’t intentionally give up my legs, but I feel like I gave up something to help other people. I know people’s lives are getting better in Mexico. I feel really great to be part of that.” 

Want to get involved? Check out the World Access Project website at www.worldaccessproject.org and see how to help.


CNN, – Article: Free wheelchairs give new life to rural Mexicans, http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/americas/04/28/cnnheroes.st.denis.wheelchairs/index.html

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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2 Responses to When things don’t go according to plan; regroup

  1. Lorrie says:

    Inspiring post!


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