Physical Therapy Students Trade White Coats for Wetsuits at Adaptive Surfing Event

By Colby Gallagher

Published on October 29, 2019

Life Rolls On 2019As a way to show other physical therapy students a fun opportunity to interact with patients outside of the clinic, Christopher Grimes DPT’21 invited his classmates to volunteer at Life Rolls On’s They Will Surf Again event as part of the 2019 Get On Board Tour. Hundreds lined the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey on August 4, 2019 to help adaptive athletes catch a wave.
“We work in volunteer teams of about 50,” said Grimes. “We bring the adaptive athletes onto modified surfboards, bring them out into the ocean and they get to ride the waves for about ten to 15 waves.”

The foundation was created in 2001 by Jesse Billauer, a surfer who became a quadriplegic after breaking his sixth vertebrae while doing what he loved. The accident didn’t stop him from getting back in the water, and he wanted others in similar situations to feel that freedom again.

Ty Duckett, a Philadelphia native who now lives in California, flies to the east coast each year to join in.

“I lost my leg about four years ago in a motorcycle accident, a guy ran a red light,” said Duckett. “My wife had the forethought, as she always does, she said ‘you’re going to need something to replace your motorcycle riding.’ She found Life Rolls On, I went, I was nervous and I got on the board, caught that first wave and I was hooked.”

Grimes has been volunteering at the event for years after Jenifer Parmer DPT’07 told him about it when he expressed an interest in water therapy. Grimes wanted others to see the impact they could have on others as future physical therapists.

“I wanted to get more students in a type of rehab volunteer opportunity experience that we didn’t necessarily have to write a paper on,” said Grimes. “We could just come out here, enjoy the event, everyone that’s out here it’s their first time. I really wanted them to experience something new and something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”

More than a dozen volunteers representing USciences, including Lora Packel PT, MSPT, PhD, chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and associate professor of physical therapy, showed up to participate alongside Grimes.

Duckett said it’s willingness from these volunteers that makes the event happen and helps to educate others.

“I feel like the differently-abled community needs this,” he said. “I feel like the light isn’t being shone on the fact that there are so many different walks of life within the differently-abled community. So I love that they’re getting behind it and they’re seeing the love that comes from it, they’re seeing the life-changing moments because this has literally been life-changing for me.”

Grimes plans to continue representing the University each year at Life Rolls On and hopes they can get even more volunteers next year.

Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy, Students