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As a result of various circumstances, health care resources are often difficult to acquire. The costs of materials and facilities, necessary for the well-being of a patient, may leave families feeling hopeless. Consequently, individuals all throughout our communities struggle to overcome the stress of their physical disabilities in addition to other responsibilities. Unfortunately, Barry Lively was one of those individuals.

A 36-year old paraplegic, Barry sustained a spinal stroke in 2011. At the time he was only 26, feeling utterly depressed and shocked. “I was in a coma for three weeks, and I woke up in a hospital not knowing what happened,” he said. “I’d had multiple surgeries before then, and I walked for years until that day.” Barry was provided rehabilitation services for only six months before his finances would deny him further access. Soon afterwards he would experience a loss of muscle tissue, which would interfere with his thoughts of possibly walking again.  However, with the help of a family friend Barry was introduced to the Progressive Exercise Program, Abilities Unlimited—a non-profit partner of United Way of the Coastal Empire.

With the help of Executive Director, Pennie Lightfoot, as well as the Director of Floor and Operations, Jim Chaplin, Barry has made tremendous progress in his effort to regain his strength. “It’s our job to renew that hope to get better,” Chaplin stated in a live interview about Abilities Unlimited. “We try to help them reach their goal, whether it’s walking again or regaining their independence.”

As a member of the program, Barry has been able to return to an exercise regimen well suited for his condition. He began his journey with the program three years ago, unable to stand at all—focusing solely on his upper body strength . Over time, with much love and support from Abilities Unlimited, Barry became motivated to refocus his attention on walking again. As of recently, Barry has accomplished a task that seemed almost impossible nearly 10 years ago. Using his newfound hope and independence, Barry has been able to walk 20 steps with his walker. To better enhance his ability to walk, he has lost 40 pounds. He is also able to bench press 175 pounds.

United Way is proud to support programs like Abilities Unlimited so that members, such as Barry, can lead independent, active lives. Barry is working towards his ability to perform his usual activities, prior to his incident. “He has a 4-year old at home, so this is very very important,” said Lightfoot. United Way couldn’t agree more. Barry seeks to share his story in hopes that it may help someone who needs it. He is very grateful for his therapy, referring to the program as a “Restoration of Life.” “It’s not fun feeling alone in a world that wasn’t made for you, but with the family and friends I keep pushing.”


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-Malarie Williams

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