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Beyond the Game: Shooting victim gets back on wake-board, helps others do the same

Wake the World (KATV photo)

Native Arkansans James and Bridgette Eason are passionate about power sports.

"Any kind of action sports, I'm all involved in it," James said.

That is, until all of the adrenaline was sucked out of this avid wake-boarder's body.

In 2002, James was sitting in his Little Rock apartment when he heard a knock at the door. The next thing he heard was a gunshot, according to a 2002 KATV Crimestoppers story. The bullets hit his vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

His passion for power sports did not leave him, however. He eventually wanted to wake-board again.

He stumbled across an organization called "Wake the World," which provides water sports opportunities to those handicapped. On a whim, 11 years after that home invasion, Bridgette drove James to an event at the 501(c)(3) non-profit's home base in North Carolina.

James was able to get back on the water, and for the first time since 2002, he got up on a wake-board again.

"Amazing," he said.

"I was bawling," Bridgette said. "I'm not a crier. Not to steal your glory, but it was amazing."

Perhaps more amazing than that comeback story, however, is James' eagerness to turn the toughest turning point of his life into a positive for others.

On August 7th, James and Bridgette held a "Wake the World" event on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas. There are approximately 40 "Wake the World" events across the country annually, though this was the first one in the Natural State. It wouldn't have happened if not for James and Bridgette's hard work - and some volunteers with big hearts.

"It's come full circle with it, it really has," James said.

Mountain Harbor Resort allowed the organization to use a dock. Ski-boat owners donated their time, not to mention their precious vessels. Thousands of dollars worth of custom water sports equipment was shipped in from North Carolina.

As a result, a few others who happen to be handicapped got to experience the same the thrill James felt when he got back on a wake-board in 2013.

"It's a big deal," Bridgette said. "Just to be able to share that and really give people this opportunity."

"It almost gives you a better purpose, to give back and get other people out there and let them know that everybody has their struggles and there still is life after disabilities," James said.

"And there are still good people in this world," said Bridgette.

Their hope is to make this an annual event. You can learn more about attending or sponsoring "Wake the World" here and on the Arkansas chapter's Facebook page here.

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