For some of us, personal goals and experiences often remain something we keep to ourselves. We may share with close family and friends and journal our progress. Yet some individuals elevate it to the next level, remaining humble as they pursue their dreams and simultaneously find ways to educate and inspire others. That is the case with Kevin Mills.
The SCIO team had the pleasure of connecting with Kevin this past summer as he was pursuing his nationwide bike tour.
In 2009, the former advanced care paramedic attended his sister’s wedding with family in Cuba. While there, Kevin, who was very familiar with the ocean, was unexpectedly diverted while swimming when a strong wave swept him off his feet and suddenly turned him to land headfirst into the ocean floor, immediately leaving him paralyzed. Kevin’s injury was at the C4 level, rendering him quadriplegia. He was told he would only be able to shrug his shoulders. He began navigating his new reality as a full-time wheelchair user.
Kevin explored all options to see what he could do to gain more movement. He and his wife Heather travelled to Florida, where he tried activity-based therapy for months. “Activity-based therapy is a type of physiotherapy where you are moving all types of the body, but you’re active, you’re exercising,” said Kevin.
After staying in Florida for months, Kevin said he got so much back from the program that his wife Heather returned and created the “Walk it Off Spinal Cord Recovery Centre” upon their return. The activity-based service centre allowed Kevin to work out every day and gain the ability to start hand cycling.
A year after his injury, Kevin decided to participate in Toronto’s Waterfront Marathon in his wheelchair. Despite coming in last, he was encouraged by so many of the participants from the marathon who, alongside spectators and police and event coordinators, were cheering him on during the event, especially as he completed the race.
Kevin continued to pursue more races and wanted to try hand cycling to see how much faster and further he could go. He finished 24 half and six whole marathons in his racing recline bike. Making a few adjustments to his bike allowed Kevin to become more independent during his quest.
Then came the dream of cycling across Canada, which Kevin always wanted to do but was still determining how this would happen.
“For me, it’s life-changing. It affects me in so many ways. Mental health. Physical health. It makes me happy. It gets me out there and makes me more functional in my other daily tasks.”
“I was like, it’s not gonna happen. Who was going to bike with me for eight hours a day, taking four months? Like I can’t be by myself. I need someone to give me water and food and to change my urinary bag. There were so many things,” said Kevin.
Then along comes Kevin’s friend Nicky, whom he often biked with after work. They would keep increasing their distance and ride further and further. Kevin recalls that one day during their ride, Nicky said she had something important to ask Kevin. He said he was shocked when Nicky asked if he would consider riding across Canada. After realizing his dream would become a reality, Kevin and Nicky further discussed how this idea would help others.
The idea of creating a non-profit called “Pedalling Possibilities.” Both Kevin and Nicky wanted to take the opportunity to promote and bring awareness of the importance of accessibility.
It was essential for Kevin to share his journey and experience about accessible recreation and how crucial it was to his well-being, and he wanted to bring much-needed attention and awareness.
“For me, it’s life-changing. It affects me in so many ways. Mental health. Physical health. It makes me happy. It gets me out there and makes me more functional in my other daily tasks,” said Kevin.
Kevin added when people see him out cycling and trying things, it opens up the discussion of seeing someone in a wheelchair trying different things, knowing there still needs to be changes and improvement when it comes to accessibility. He shared how he loved the feedback from other people with disabilities who feel inspired to try to do something like him. He says he encourages people and tells them it “changes your life.”
Kevin has so many highlights from this experience, and he credits his wife Heather’s support and his super crew team Nicky and
Candace for being there for him. He says there is so much he has to share, but being outside and involved with his community has been amongst the top memorable moments thus far.
SCIO has been sharing Kevin’s posts on our social media platforms, and we also have a full interview with Kevin and several video segments of his journey featured in our Underestimated series. Check it out to learn more and see some behind-the-scenes footage of Kevin with his crew on his Canada tour. You can also follow Kevin on his social media platforms
Congratulations, Kevin, on all your accomplishments and raising awareness on accessible recreation.