Tampa, Fla - "The contest started this past Tuesday, but it lasts for 8 weeks, so I'm just trying to get as many votes as I can." Antonio Dowels is on a mission. "My goal is to get 30,000 votes by May the 9th."
His future may depend on it. As he gets around campus in a wheelchair, a female student asks Antonio what happened. He answers, “I played football and ran track here.”
Six years ago, Antonio moved much like a Riverview High School Shark, fast, sleek, hungry. The 4.0 student excelled at football, track and basketball, until a late night car accident derailed his dreams. “When I fell asleep, I drive that route so much I dreamed I was going to my house. I woke up under a semi-truck and that's all I remember."
A broken neck rendered hands that intercepted passes useless and legs that carried him to state track finals motionless. Antonio could have easily given up. Instead he turned therapists into his new coaches and trained to cross a different goal line. Graduating with honors, Antonio got a scholarship to the University of Florida He graduated with a college degree and, “I’m going to law school.”
But one more obstacle stands in his way. “Right now there are so many things going against me. Someone came into my apartment and stole my laptop, stole my shoes, stole my X-box. I'm always trying to stay positive. Now I need a laptop for law school."
But really, he needs more than that. He needs a way to get around in Miami without his family’s help.
There are vans modified so the disabled can drive. This one costs $60,000. It's out of reach financially for Antonio and his family, so he entered a contest online run by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, a non-profit trade organization.
He tried last year, but fell short. But in his usual style, Antonio just changed his game plan and came back at the goal a different way. “I’m very thankful that ABC can put my story out there so people can see it doesn't matter what happens to you. To spread the word that anything is possible. And I won't let anything deter me from reaching my goals."
So here’s how you vote. Head over to The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association web site http://www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/antonio-dowels-riverview-fl/ . You have to register - but it’s free and then you can cast your vote every day until the first week of May. We have a great opportunity to take action together.
Watch Linda's previous stories about Antonio: