After breaking his neck, Dwayne Sheuneman teaches kids how to dance in wheelchairs

TAMPA - When Dwayne Sheuneman joined the Navy after high school, he never envisioned himself as a dance instructor, and certainly not one in a wheelchair.

"Can you bend over and push your chair like this?" he asked.

He starts each wheelchair dance class with a quick practice, familiarizing kids with the routine, but he's not focused on their mistakes.

"I hope that they learn here that they can do anything, they just have to find a way to get it done," he said.

Scheuneman started 'REVolutions Dance' seven years ago to teach kids about triumph over challenge. The same lesson he learned 18 years ago.

"I could tell right away that I was paralyzed from the chest down," he remembered.

Eight years after enlisting in the Navy, then serving in Desert Storm, Scheuneman dove head first into a swimming pool.

Days later, he woke up to his best friend in a hospital room.

"He was the first one to speak. He said, 'Game on.' Right then, I knew what he meant. I looked at him and said, 'Game on,'" Scheuneman smiled.

Scheuneman started racing right away, competing in the 2003 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Los Angeles.

Then, he gave it all up to dance with kids. For 10 years, he hasn't raced a track. He even sold his racing chair, until he learned the same veterans wheelchair games would come to Tampa next weekend.

"I find myself out there on the track," he said. "I'm pushing myself to the edge. It's kind of a soul thing."

Sheuneman's taught that same lesson to more than 100 kids.

"I hope they learn a lot about themselves and what they're capable of," he said.

For Scheuneman, both activities are an experiment with movement, a practice that takes commitment, and a focus that forces him to look forward and push his body to follow.

"If I was standing on that diving board and someone said, 'Look, if you dive in, you're going to break your neck and this is the life you're going to have,' I'd hold my breath, and I'd jump," he said.

 

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