After losing the use of his legs 20 years ago in a car accident and following a six-year battle with alcohol and drug addiction, Gabriel Cordell kept a long-held promise to himself that he would do something “extraordinary” with his life by the time he was 45.
Cordell kept his word in grand fashion when earlier this week, the 42-year-old paraplegic West Hempstead native completed a 3,100-mile cross-country trek in 99 days his wheelchair.
Cordell’s quest began last April at the Pacific Ocean in California and ended this week at his alma mater, West Hempstead High School.
“The last week I’ve been pretty much rolling on will,” Cordell told NBC News after completing the journey.
Cordell said his desire was to “inspire others and to test himself” through this extraordinary challenge. And that is exactly what he has done. Among the many people who are confirming that their lives have changed by watching Cordell’s remarkable perseverance and purpose is his nephew, Chris Kawas, who struggles with drug addiction.
Kawas, 22, who served as his uncle’s primary caregiver during the trek, confirmed that he has remained sober throughout his uncle’s odyssey. Citing the kindness and support the team received along the way, Kawas told reporters, "I am not the same man as when we started."
Following the trip, crew member Chris Yanke said, "To see the country like that and to see Chris go through this, it changed my life."
"This represents the everyday person," Cordell told NBC News reporters, pointing at his wheelchair. "When they see me, they see themselves."
Cordell’s team has been creating a documentary of his journey that they hope will memorialize his remarkable accomplishment and continue to inspire others.
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[Source: NBC News]