“Diving Accident Survivor Finds Purpose in Assisting Others”: Embracing Quadriplegia as My Strength

Mark Raymond Jr. can remember the moment before the accident. It was a nice July day in 2016, and he was on his friend’s boat in Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. He looked into the water and then dove in. Suddenly, he hit his head on the lake bottom.

He couldn’t move and feared he might drown. His last thoughts were of his mom and hoping his friends would realize he was in trouble.

His friends pulled him out and saved him with CPR. When he woke up two weeks later, he found out he had broken his neck and couldn’t walk or use his hands properly.

Life had changed a lot for him. He realized there weren’t many places in New Orleans for people like him to get better. So, he decided to open a gym for people with disabilities.

He named it Split Second Fitness, because life can change in an instant. The gym has special equipment and programs to help people get stronger physically and mentally.

There are bikes for people who can’t use their legs, yoga for flexibility, and counseling for mental health. Mark wanted to give people hope and help them make their lives better.

Mark got the idea when he was at a rehab center in Sacramento. He saw how much it helped him and wanted to bring that to New Orleans.

It took him three years to raise money and learn how to run a nonprofit. Now, he’s helping people like Ray Walker, who was paralyzed in a car accident. Ray says the gym has changed his life.

Others who know Mark, like former NBA player Lance Thomas, are impressed by what he’s done. Lance was with Mark on the boat when the accident happened. He says Mark is smart and caring, and he’s turned something bad into something good by helping others.

Mark’s grandfather fought for civil rights in Louisiana, and Mark wants to continue that legacy. He hopes his grandfather would be proud of him. He plans to open more gyms across the country and be remembered for helping people with disabilities.

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