Grayson Phillips, 18, of Gardendale, Ala., a senior at Essential Church School, organized a fishing tournament and a fundraising dinner/auction, and collected donations at outdoor expos, to provide seven children and young adults with disabilities with all-terrain power wheelchairs that allow them to safely navigate the great outdoors with their peers. Grayson, who was born with spina bifida, knew all too well the frustration of not being able to easily follow his fellow Boy Scouts during campouts and other outdoor activities. “I was constantly getting stuck in the mud or in the sand in the woods and on the beach in my manual wheelchair,” he said. But after raising money to buy his own Action Track chair and seeing how dramatically it changed his life, he wanted others with disabilities to experience the same freedom. So three years ago, he founded a nonprofit to buy chairs for others.
To publicize his organization and fundraising events, Grayson created a website, utilized social media, sent out press releases, and set up a booth at outdoor expos. He asked local businesses for donations, and spoke at schools to recruit volunteers. So far, Grayson has provided all-terrain power wheelchairs worth more than $84,000 to seven people who have a passion for the outdoors, but not the money to buy their own. They include a Mississippi girl with cerebral palsy who loves the beach, a girl in North Carolina who now can go hunting, and an Alabama boy who used his new chair to help clean up his community during a church service day. “It is important to me to help as many disabled kids as possible get outdoors because I know what it feels like to experience independence for the first time,” said Grayson.