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3,100-Mile Wheelchair Journey Takes Man to Glen Cove

Gabriel Cordell visits campers from the Glen Cove YMCA. Credit: Adina Genn
Gabriel Cordell visits campers from the Glen Cove YMCA. Credit: Adina Genn
Children at the Glen Cove YMCA Summer Day Camp Tuesday welcomed Gabriel Cordell, a 42-year paraplegic who completed a 3,100 mile wheelchair cross-country wheelchair journey one day earlier. 

Cordell began his trip at a YMCA in Burbank, Calif., and returned to his native West Hempstead on Monday after 99 days of travel, which is the subject of an upcoming documentary, "Roll With Me: A Journey Across America."

Because the YMCA holds a special place in his heart, Cordell spent Tuesday visiting with campers at the YMCA in Glen Cove. 

"The YMCA in Burbank was a safe haven to me," said Cordell,who became a paraplegic in 1992 when a car ran a red light and crashed into the driver's side of his Jeep. That accident caused the car to flip, ejecting Cordell six feet into the air into a telephone pole, crushing his back and his spinal cord.

They YMCA, he said, always provided him solace.  

"Any time I felt sad or mad or upset i would always go there, and they would put a smile on my face and give me a hug, and say that 'it's ok.' They always encouraged me."

Cordell told campers that they are "part of something really special here," referring to the YMCA. 

"Any time you feel mad, any time you feel sad, and you need to talk to someone, there is always someone here who will listen," Cordell said.  

"Try to be part of this organization as long as you possibly can," he added. 

Always wanting to motivate others, Cordell said that after his accident while he was at the Rusk Instinstute in Manhattan, he became inspired by the children who were also there. These children taught him how lucky he was to have enjoyed 22 years of good health, and to see that his situation wasn't so bad. The seven people helping to make the documentary and his family, he said, are other great sources of support.

"They inspired me to be the best that I can be," he said. 

The journey, he said, "was a great accomplishment."

Cordell is planning one more wheelchair journey – across the state of Israel, where he hopes to inspire peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. 

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