A month ago, James “Woody” Beckham drove me and two of his friends down to Key Largo for a fishing trip with Captain Mick Nealy. We boarded Captain Mick’s vessel and headed out to hook up with grouper, snapper, trout and whatever else we could find. We caught a lot of fish, we threw most of them back, Woody’s friend took home some nice sheephead filets. On our way back to Miami, Woody took the median to skip a long line of spring break traffic, he was pulled over, the officer let him go.
A few days later Woody drove me over to the Little Haiti Cultural Center, we were there to support our friend Peter Bailey and his live theater interview with movie star, Omar Dorsey.
A week later Woody and I met with a quadriplegic at her condo in Hallandale Beach – Woody was there to deliver a backpack loaded with assistive devices. As the face of The Woody Foundation, Woody delivers “Woody Packs” throughout South Florida to those with limited hand functioning. The Woody Pack includes a cell phone holder, a special fork and spoon, an ID/credit card holder, other helpful tools and a stylish Woody Foundation hat.
Woody has a personal understanding of the Woody Pack; he’s also a quadriplegic and has been since January 2011. He was playing rugby and suffered an injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down.
At the condo in Hallandale Beach, Woody and our new friend called me, “Mr. Fingers” because theirs don’t work well and when something needed to be picked up or moved, they asked for Mr. Fingers. Woody and her spoke with each other about how they handle certain challenges or the occasional awkwardness of greeting someone.
“I love meeting new people and I’m not bothered by someone trying to shake hands with me. I can’t really grip so shaking hands doesn’t work that well, but I’m working on it,” said Beckham. “Meeting ladies in Miami where a kissing is common can be interesting. Sometimes when they lean in for the kiss they bump my joystick, then my chairs moves and it scares them, but let’s be clear, keep the kisses coming,” he laughed.
Now a student at Florida International University, Woody’s working on a Business Degree in Finance. After school he wants to patent and distribute products to help others dealing with paralysis. He wants to expand the Woody Pack and streamline distribution with the 14 hospitals that accept the majority of spinal cord injuries.
“A lot has changed in my life since my injury. I’ve lost some friends; kept the good ones and swapped the duds for better ones. People are nicer to me in passing, they open doors and help me when I need it, but I don’t get invited to do stuff as much as I used to.”
Woody does a lot of inviting, The Woody Foundation hosts four major annual events to raise money and increase awareness for those with paralysis. Next up is the 4th Annual Woody Golf Classic set for April 30; then The Lionfish Bash will happen on July 25, 2015; the 3rd Annual Woodystock is set for December 12 and Lobster Feast is slated for February 2016.
“I understand how people in wheelchairs can be mysterious. There are several factors that put people in chairs such as a stroke, ALS, cerebral palsy, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries. Some people are paralyzed from the waist down; others are C1 to C4 quadriplegics and can barely talk above a whisper. I encourage people to treat those in chairs just like everyone else. And even though I can’t shake hands very well, I don’t mind people trying, if you want to do a fist bump, that’s fine too.”
About The Woody Foundation
The Woody Foundation, Inc. is a not for profit organization formed in 2011 to raise funds for the recovery of people with paralysis. The namesake of the foundation, James “Woody” Beckham suffered his spinal cord injury making a rugby tackle in January 2011. His family and friends have bonded together to support Woody by making donations to local charities, which help others with paralysis.