A quadriplegic gets wings to fly

I wish I could bottle up Randall Dickman’s attitude and sell it at a Kitty Hawk Kites location near you. The results would be impressive: our sales would skyrocket and the world would become a much happier place.

And I’ve never even met the man. But I did have the good fortune of being able to spend half an hour with him on the phone yesterday. Needless to say, I was impressed.

I called to talk with him about his recent tandem hang gliding lesson. He’s a nursing home administrator by trade – not a poet – but the words he used to describe tandem hang gliding were as poignant to me as any Frost or Tennyson or Dickinson ever penned. He talked about how quietly he and his instructor glided through the air, about how good the light mist of the clouds felt on his face, and about his surprise at how effortlessly the pilot controlled the glider.

Now, being towed up 2,000 feet above the Outer Banks and then released to make your own, non-powered descent is enough to get anyone’s adrenaline pumping, but for Randall Dickman, who hasn’t walked since he was 17, the experience was – in his words – “the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.”

You see, Randall is a C-3,-4,-5 quadriplegic, the result of a car accident during his senior year (1973) in high school. But Randall Dickman’s not the kind of guy to allow circumstances to shape his destiny.

You know how it’s become socially acceptable to say that someone has been “confined to a wheelchair”? Nope. Doesn’t apply here. Randall Dickman’s not a man willing to be confined.

Randall said he realized very quickly after his accident that he needed to get a good education to be able to provide for himself. So he did. Now, he’s the administrator (that means he’s the guy in charge) of a nursing home facility that’s been given a much-coveted five-star ranking by U.S. News and World Report. He says he feels like his own disabilities have given him the special ability to empathize with those he serves professionally. Leave it to Randall to find the silver lining.

Randall found out about our tandem hang gliding lessons at the Currituck Airport while he and several members of his family were vacationing here on the Outer Banks. A flight enthusiast with the dream of flight since childhood, Randall said he knew this was something he had to do. His sister wasn’t so keen on the idea (she was worried about his safety), but his brother Steve helped make it happen. Randall says getting into the harness was challenging but that our instructors were “very kind, helpful, and professional.”

“This experience was even better than I ever imagined. I think that all people with disabilities should experience this at least once in their life,” he said.

And then he said something that makes everything we do as a company seem so…so…worth it: “Hang gliding is one of those experiences that makes life really worth living.”

Randall Dickman sees the world through a half-full-glass lense. And I see guys like Randall Dickman as reminders of the power of the human spirit.

Randall, thanks for reminding me – and countless others, I’m sure – that with the right attitude, all our dreams can take flight.