Keep Movin' Forward Van


My name is Dr. Eric Gabriel, and I live in Mebane, North Carolina. I am a 62-year old bi-lateral, above knees amputee and have had over 63 surgeries in my life.  I have had many ups and downs, and though at times—during my darkest hours—I have wanted to give up, I put my trust in God.  He is the reason I am alive today and living a healthier life.  The purpose of this ‘GoFundMe Page’ is to regain my independence through the help of donations.  I am generally home bound and would like to purchase an adaptable van to get out in the community, teach at the college level, and provide motivational speaking. The van costs approximately between $40,000 and $72,000.  I humbly ask for your help.


I was born and raised in Levittown, Long Island NY, one of the first pre-panned housing developments in the United States.  For the most part, I enjoyed growing up, going to school, and playing baseball.  Baseball, and later softball, became my escape from an abusive household. Getting out of the house—going to school and playing sports—was a safe haven.  Starting in my late teens and early twenties, I played competitive softball for 18 years.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, gained respect from both my teammates and opposing players, and won many awards for my performance.  But my playing style would come at a great cost.

Because I played aggressively—often sliding headfirst into bases while wearing only shorts—I injured my knees.  The constant scraping of skin on hard gravel caused deep abrasions and internal injuries.  Years and years of wear and tear led to surgeries and more surgeries.  At a certain point, I had to decide whether to endure the terrible pain and immobility or amputee the limb.  I opted for the later, and in 2009, I had my right leg removed. A few years later, in 2018, I had to have the other leg amputated.  Both 2009 and 2018 were the worst and yet best years of my life.


I found purpose and meaning.  Like Levittown in my early years, I found a safe haven away from my physical, mental, and emotional pain.  By happenstance, I discovered the sport of rowing.  More specifically, adaptive rowing.  I found, even though I was a bilateral amputee, that I could row using a machine with a tight seatbelt.  I could not use the foot supports, but I could pull the rowing bar using my upper body and set goals for distance and time.  Eventually, this led me into competition.  I competed three times in the indoor rowing adaptive championships in Boston, Massachusetts and won a silver medal at one of the events. I recently finished first in the category of 60 year and older lower leg amputee males.  In 2012, I was invited to try out for the United States Paralympic Rowing Team. Though I did not win a spot on the team, I am forever grateful for the opportunity and experience.

Later, I became deeply interested in higher education.  As a result of rowing, I began asking deep questions about the experiences of handicapped individuals in sporting activities: Why do participants engage in adaptive sports?  What are the mental, emotional, and physical outcomes?  How does competition affect individual motivation?  Finally, how does adaptive sports impact life goals?  In 2018, I graduated with an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership.  My dissertation was entitled, “Preparatory Exercise, Competition, and Well-Being of Lower Leg Amputee Men: A Qualitative, Descriptive Study." My proudest day was receiving my degree in the mail and attending commencement.


I have many goals for the future, but particularly if I can purchase an adaptive van.  I want to do more research.  I want to continue to train for rowing competitions.  I want to teach at area colleges or universities.  And finally, I would love to share my story through motivational speaking, especially for those who have had an arm or leg amputation or loss of limb mobility.  But my future relies on adaptive transportation.  I realize that we are all going through tough times, given the pandemic, violence in our streets, and high unemployment rates.  But anything you could donate—no matter how small—can help me reach my goals.  I thank you for reading my GoFundMe page and wish all of you, health and prosperity. God Bless.
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Organizer

Eric Gabriel 
Organizer
Mebane, NC