Cranford Chronicle    January 23, 2003

Speaker to students: You too can fly high

   CRANFORD Orange Avenue School students got a lesson Friday in self-esteem and achieving goals from Scott Chesney, paralyzed since he was 15.
   Chesney, 32, a native of Verona, told the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders gathered in the auditorium that self-image is "a message you send to everyone. It is the foundation of your house."
He said many adults face challenges that "are 100 percent" based on their experiences and opinions of themselves as children.
   "Underneath it all, everyone wants to give and receive love," he said.
   Chesney, who uses a wheelchair, said he became handicapped at the age of 15 as a result of "a very rare stroke in. my spinal cord."
   At first, he could not feel his left toe. Within 48 hours, his legs had become paralyzed.
   "Imagine being told that you will never walk again or be able to have your own children," he said to the students.
   Chesney said his doctor at the time told him that his was only the 12th known case of that type of stroke, and that he was fortunate because seven of the 12 victims had the stroke in their brains and died.
   Though his dreams of one day playing basketball at Michael Jordan's alma mater, the University of North Carolina, may have been dashed, Chesney said he has been able to do things most other people only dream about.
   "The reality is, you'll have some dreams that won't come true. But when one closes, a bigger and brighter one opens," Chesney said.
   "I've been to 38 different countries and I've traveled around
the world twice," he said. On one of his many trips, he added, he even got to meet Jordan.
   As he got older, Chesney said being able to father his own children became more important than being able to walk again.
   "I used to dream about holding a baby," he told the students. "You may say that's foolish, but if I
can't see it, how will anyone subscribe to my dreams?"
   And, Chesney said, he now has 2-month-old baby at home with his wife. "My wife is a person who made a choice to see for who I am," he said.
   He also showed the students a video of him achieving another improbable goal: skydiving. The students became more animated watching Chesney dive four miles from a plane to the ground below.
   "The more you apply yourself, the more you believe in it, there's more of a chance of it happening," he said.
   Seventh-grader Kevin Jacobi, 12, said he was especially impressed by the skydiving video.
   "It shows how much you can do when you're disabled, how much you can achieve," he said.
   Fellow seventh-grader J.R. Halupka, 12, was similarly moved by the images of Chesney skydiving.
   "I thought it was so awesome that he got to do that, even though he's paralyzed. It made me want to do it; it looked fun," she said.
   And Kelsey Fisher, a 13-year-old seventh-grade student, thought Chesney's presentation was "inspiring."
    "It was cool he got to do everything that he did," she said.
Speaker to students: You too can fly high.