A Bucket List Adventure
Kelli Bright is very well named. She shines through the clouds like a beam of brilliant sunshine!
Have you ever met someone who made you feel confused, grateful, ecstatic and hopeful all at the same time? Well, I did, and it was a first-time experience for me in the 10 years I have been writing for Pink. I had the wonderful and blessed privilege of making the acquaintance of Kelli. Now 21, she was injured in a single-car accident at the age of 16, which left her paralyzed from the chest down. Yes, this amazing woman is wheelchair bound. However, she makes that term seem silly because she is “bound” by nothing!
PINK: Kelli, talk a bit about yourself, who you are and what you would like people to know about you.
KELLI: The easiest way to describe who I am now is to describe who I used to be. I was your average teenager. I worked part time at a local ice cream shop; I was on the varsity cheer team, the varsity softball team, played basketball and did gymnastics. I had just started driving and just purchased my very first car. Then, on June 24, 2009, I was in an accident that left me the way you see me now. My paralysis, however, did not change what kind of person I was, but instead shaped me into the person I am by giving me a reality check on what life is really about. I have a new perspective on life. I am independent, I am engaged and I am happy. I do not let my disability define me. It is what I am, but not who I am. I live my life with no complaints and my goal is to inspire others to do the same.
PINK: What do you do in a typical day or evening?
KELLI: I work at the outdoor pool on Parris Island six days a week and I have been doing so for the last three years. During fall and spring, I go to USCB in Bluffton, where I am working towards a degree in communications with a minor in business. I hope to use that towards public speaking so I can continue talking in front of people and groups about safety while driving, using my accident as an example. After school and work I like to hang out with friends and family and spend time with my fiancé. Sounds pretty typical, huh?
PINK: Do you have any hobbies or interests?
KELLI: I love public speaking for my cause and I hope I am helping people. I also have come to enjoy things I can make with my hands. I make vinyl decals, shirts, glass etchings, string art and anything else I can make from home. I like to fish and it feels amazing when I get into the water to swim. Recently, I have also tried golf. I really enjoyed that because it kind of reminded me of when I used to play softball.
PINK: This column is about people who have a bucket list. Tell me what is on your bucket list.
KELLI: Oh, Judith my list is a little different than most people’s list. The bucket list is supposed to be about things people want to do before they die, but my list is about things I want to do when I walk again. I am convinced and totally believe I will walk again! My list consists of things like horseback riding, running a marathon, spending a day at a water park, scuba diving, or something as simple as playing a game of hide-and-seek. I want to take my nieces and nephews to the beach and go skiing. You can see that my dreams are all related to my healing.
PINK: I know you face many challenges. How do you handle things you must face each day?
KELLI: I have accepted my paralysis from day one and I didn’t let it get me down or hold me back. But, of course, I cannot lie and say that I am 100 percent happy all of the time. I do have moments where I question my situation and get very down about it all. There are a lot more challenges than people realize that I have to face every day because I am paralyzed.
People think, “Oh, she can’t walk,” but it is much more than that. I am faced with medical challenges every day. Every time I go out in public, I am faced with accessibility issues from someone parked in the handicap space to lack of ramps that deny me independence. People also do not look at me as a normal person when I interact with them. I can feel that.
I am also faced with financial challenges. Seeing how all of the equipment that would benefit me costs thousands upon thousands of dollars that I do not have, I try to look at these things as challenges so I do not get downhearted. I am lucky in many ways, of course. I have a loving family, many dear friends and a wonderful fiancé. A challenge is just that: something to overcome. There is nothing I cannot do with my loved ones by my side because there is nothing I cannot do if I have just a little assistance!
PINK: As you read the story of this truly beautiful young woman, I know you are wondering what she needs and how you can help. Kelli needs a paramobile, which is a sophisticated set of mechanisms and exercise machines that will let her muscles be exercised so that she does not lose further muscle matter, and so that she will be physically able to walk when her time comes, as she believes it will. The Exchange Club of Beaufort is hosting the Nite Brite Golf Tournament for Kelli on the evening of Aug. 22 at The Legends at Parris Island golf course. It will be a glow ball golf scramble and all skill levels are welcome. The cost is $75 for the first 50 players and $85 thereafter. This fee includes golf cart, glow-in-the-dark golf ball and dinner. Unless they are called away for duty, the Parris Island Jazz Band will perform. It will be a raucous and fun dinner crowd for a very worthy cause.
All proceeds will go toward Kelli’s purchase of her very own paramobile. Tournament sponsorships are also being sought. A sponsorship at the $1,500 level will include a private club fitting with a PGA professional. The Legends at Parris Island is ranked No. 66 in Links Magazine’s Top 100 U.S. courses. For more information, please call Angel Flewelling at (843)525-0102. Come join in the fun. Any help is greatly appreciated. The goal is to raise $20,000. What a wonderful opportunity to really make a difference in someone’s life!
What’s on YOUR bucket list?