SAN DIEGO - A novel mentor program gives physically challenged adults a chance to show disabled children realize they can still live a full life.
Timothy Donovan, 10, was born with cerebral palsy and dreams of doing all the things other kids his age do, sports, a job, driving a car. With help from a new San Diego program called Roll Models, he now has hope that he will.
Through Roll Models, Donovan has been matched with 28-year-old Andrew Hippert, who was left paralyzed from the neck down after injuring his spinal cord in a swimming pool accident three years ago.
"I want to be there for him with questions or if he's going through something," Hippert said of his mentee. "I've probably already experienced it."
Three years after his accident, Hippert plays tennis, skis and owns his own business.
"I want to be like 'Hey, you're going to be just as productive in society as everyone else,'" Hippert said. "You’ll find a niche, find what you enjoy and go after it… go to college."
And that’s the message for all disabled kids: the disability won’t stop them from living. But they'll have to adjust the way they go about it.
"When you first get injured, you feel like you can’t do anything. Then, you get stronger and you want to everything that you used to do," Hippert said.
HeadNorth executive director Michele Bart said the goal of Roll Models is twofold - inspiration for the child and the parent.
"There are a lot of growing pains that we all go through. That's where the role model comes in and being inspirational," Bart said.
Donovan's mother said since they started the program, "he’s going to be just fine." She wants to make sure her child knows he will have a bright future.
"One of the things that he really wishes he could do is walk – that’s one of his biggest dreams," she said.