Navigating a wheelchair couldn’t be that difficult Gus Orozco thought. Grip the wheels, push them forward and get to where you are going. Simple.
That is, until the geography/environmental science major hit a three-foot patch of grass at the track stadium Friday as he made his way to the “Move A Mile In Our Shoes” event.
“I got stuck,” said Orozco, commissioner of Veterans Affairs at Cal State Long Beach. “Just getting over the grass is something no one who’s not disabled thinks about.”
He also didn’t consider what happens to bare hands after maneuvering a wheelchair for any significant length of time. Orozco developed blisters after traveling the mile around the track in a friend’s wheelchair to help raise money and accessibility awareness for Disabled Student Services. Orozco said the fun walk raised $6,000 for scholarships.
“That might not sound like much, but in my eyes, it’s super,” Orozco said, eyeing the bandage on his right hand.
Several students, faculty, staff and community members donned light blue shirts and joined in the walk that took place in the noon-day sun.
Mary Ann Takemoto, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs/Health Services, took up the challenge because she determined it a worthy cause.
“It’s really important to support Disabled Student Services and raise money for scholarships,” Takemoto said, adding that seeing the campus community come together was a great experience.
Disabled Student Services director Dave Sanfilippo also completed the fun walk in a wheelchair, handily beating the rest of the field. Unlike Orozco, he wore gloves.
“The things that students have taught me over the 40 years I’ve been here is that things are different. It’s easy to do it for a day, but try doing it every day. It’s not so easy.
“It’s easy to do it if you train for it, but people do this every day and it’s not the same. I always gain a healthy perspective when I do this; it’s important to know what it takes to be in a chair.”
Sanfilippo said he and his staff decided to include the walk as a way to further promote disabled students who are challenged physically, mentally or learning-wise. There were several booths on the track touting the numerous services available to students. Disabled Student Services provide services, such as AIM, autism support and emotional therapy, to more than 1,500 students each semester.
“We decided we didn’t want to do just a regular information event but we wanted to something that had a little bit of fun in it and benefitted our students with their scholarships,” Sanfilippo said.