This blog post is the "back story" to student contributor, Josh Hart's Journey article: The Freedom in Falling: A Release from Life in a Wheelchair 

I stumbled across my first story idea for Coca-Cola Journey while visiting the website of a local non-profit organization in northeast Georgia called Extra Special People (ESP). ESP serves one purpose: to help develop kids with mental, physical and social handicaps of all kinds. As I skimmed through their website something caught my eye. Every spring they have a fundraiser called “Jump Fly”. I clicked on the description and quickly learned that they gave disabled kids the chance of a lifetime-- the opportunity to skydive.

I met with one of the head coordinators for ESP, Eli Hill. We discussed a little bit about the event and he told me some incredible stories. He mentioned a kid named Matthew who had already been skydiving seven times. Needless to say I had to meet this kid.

Josh Hart skydiving

I got in touch with the Dooley family and set up an interview with Matthew. Going in, I was a little nervous. I honestly do not have a very extensive background with kids who deal with any kind of disability, but I was ready for anything. As I arrived, I walked into their house and Matthew extended a hand and politely said, “nice to meet you”.

It was kind of shocking. He was not a helpless kid, but a confident young man. We chatted for a quick while and then got down to business. He took me into the family room and showed me a DVD from his first jump. He gave great commentary describing his feelings through the experience and even expressed how embarrassed he was about the way he sounded on camera.

Next it was time to interview. After I set up the cameras, got Matthew mic’ed up and made sure everything was in place, we began. He was a great person to talk to. He made jokes, he was honest and transparent and he expressed realistic hopes and dreams he is pursuing. Someone I, or anyone else for that matter, would have no problem spending time with.

After the interview, he took me to his room to show me all of his sky diving paraphernalia. I soon learned that he had also traveled to France and Paraguay. 

Matt and Josh before skydiving

Matt and Josh before skydiving together

Not too long after, I packed up and said my goodbyes. Driving home I was ecstatic at how well the day went, but yet I felt somewhat ashamed. How could someone who has such difficult circumstances be so optimistic and fight through their troubles to the point of not just living well, but thriving? If it were me in that wheelchair, what would I be like? Needless to say, a valuable lesson of courage and perseverance can be learned from Matthew. Heck I was scared to skydive before meeting him. 

But I did. With Matthew by my side. 

Watch Josh Hart's first skydive experience with Matthew:

Didn’t get to read Josh's article on an inspirational skydiver bound to life in a wheelchair?  Find it here

About the Author

Joshua Hart

Josh Hart is Coca-Cola Journey student contributor and a fourth year Digital & Broadcast Journalism major at the University of Georgia also seeking a minor in Religion. He calls the city of Atlanta home and is a die-hard Braves, Falcons and of course, GA Bulldogs fan. Hart hopes to pursue a career in Broadcast Journalism, fulfilling his passions for sports and storytelling.