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Nov 18, 2011

Paraplegic rides across Belize

In 2003, Jerome Flores was working setting up cables when he fell off a forty feet post that almost claimed his life. Flores was lucky enough to survive the dangerous fall, but he was paralyzed and left without the use of his legs. Flores never gave up hope and today he remains an inspiration to hundreds who are disabled. He never allowed his disability to get in the way and a few years later he made his very first recumbent trike, a cycle pedaled by hands to help him return his life to a state of normalcy. In 2009 and 2010, Flores, who works with CARE Belize, executed two bike rides to raise funds and awareness for persons with disabilities. With the support of Oceana he set out on his third ride on the Hummingbird Highway to raise awareness on two pressing issues.  The day’s leg of the race started in Belmopan and ended in St. Margaret’s. News Five was in the capital city when Flores’ rode off and we followed him all the way to his finish line. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was at the starting line at seven this morning on Independence Plaza:

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

He is disabled, he has no use in the lower body, but he’s taking a stand! After saying a short prayer, thirty year old Jerome Flores is geared up for the third leg of his ride across Belize awareness initiative. Transferred from his wheel chair, to his locally custom made hand cycle, also known as hand- bike,  he is about to embark on a twenty five mile ride from Independence Plaza to  Over-the–Top in St. Margaret’s Village. A couple minutes before departure time, this fearless rider, in high spirits, tells us why he isn’t nervous about this hand-cycling along the Hummingbird Highway:

Jerome Flores, RIDER

“I fell very happy. I feel very excited for the support we have out here, the media and everything, so I am very honored and happy because our voice will be heard.”

Andrea Polanco

“Jerome, I know that you’ve been practicing for the last month or so, tell us what was the practice like for you along the Humming Bird Highway?”

Jerome Flores

Jerome Flores

“It was very challenging because the other two routes were very, umm had hills, the second one, the first one was very flat so then it was completely different training, because now it’s hill after hill, so then now you have train more harder inorder to keep up the pace and keep up a certain speed. So with the help of Oceana with their sponsor, I was able to come up here and actually ride on the route that I will be riding today so it was very good.”

Andrea Polanco

“So you know exactly what to expect today?”

Jerome Flores

“Jerome Flores, Paraplegic, Yes, I know exactly what to expect today, so today is gonna be an easy ride, tomorrow is gonna be a harder ride”

Like in previous years, Flores’ is riding for two very important causes. As the President of the Belize Association for Persons with Diverse Abilities, Flores wants to raise funds and to bring awareness to the plight of disabled persons, today receiving a donation from Anthony Chanona. This year, he is also trumpeting Oceana, his official sponsor’s, message against offshore drilling:

Jerome Flores

“First, what I have been riding for in the past two years is to bring awareness for persons with disabilities. We see a lot of needs that are not being met out there and we just want the government and all those who are in charge to just hear us and to just help us in whichever way they can nuh. And also, offshore drilling, like what we say, we don’t have anything against the oil industry, it’s just certain areas, which are the protected areas, Oceana doesn’t want them to drill there.”

With plans in place for hydration along the way, and his core support system of friends, sponsors and family members riding alongside him, an upbeat Flores is ready to set off on Reef Ride 2011:

Jerome Flores

“My brother, my twin brother will be servicing me, he will be back and forth to the pick-up, and I will just be focusing on my ride, and he will come beside me and service me. So I have my team already here with me today and I am very happy to have them here with me today.”

And shortly after seven a.m, Flores sets off from Independence Plaza, with sirens blaring from the traffic truck and a party of supporters on bikes and vehicles trailing behind. Flores’ self-made recumbent trike, of aluminum tubing is properly fitted with seven gears for the road. As he makes his way out of Belmopan, onto the highway, he travels at a moderate speed, with an estimated time of arrival at two hours and a half later. As he hand pedals his way along, he sits comfortably in his reclining seat. His supporters keep a close watch on him, helping him along. His twin brother ensures he gets his fluids and power bars on time to maintain his energy and strength, against the rigors of the Hummingbird. As he goes downhill, his speed picks up and on the flat, he is going at about seven miles an hour. Along the villages, residents come out to show their support for Flores. And as he continues his ride, with his eyes straight ahead, Flores cruises along the highway, and just two hours after he set off, Flores rides into St. Margaret’s Village on record time.

Jerome Flores

“I feel great. I feel strong, that is what preparation does, you know. You don’t get any unexpected thing hit you so I am very glad that I got trained for it and with the support of everyone, we able to pull through and we made it in good time.”

Andrea Polanco

“So being out here on the highway, what was going through your mind, as you ride round the curves and up and down the hills?”

Jerome Flores,

“Well, we just wanted it to be safe and what we found out after we passed Sibun River, it began to get really rough yuh know suh I didn’t want anything to break or slam or anything so because I want to finish this ride. But it was really great.”

Andrea Polanco

“And I see of course, you had your support system out there, cause I saw at certain points, your brother was behind you, yuh know, pushing you along. What was he saying?”

Jerome Flores

“He trains with me so he knows what I can do and he sees when I need a little help and he helps me along the way. Whenever he sees that I am strong, I give him a nod, he knows. So it is very good to have that support along the way.”

Flores returned home to Burrell Boom at the end of the ride to rest for the last leg, which will continue on Saturday from Over-the-top to Dangriga. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

The race will continue on Saturday at seven a.m from St. Margaret’s Village and the public is invited to look out for Flores or join him as he makes his way down to Dangriga. If you’d like to make a contribution to B.A.P.D.A, you can make a deposit to First Caribbean Bank account number 10202430.

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1 Response for “Paraplegic rides across Belize”

  1. Bulba Martinez says:

    I am very proud of you Jerome, keep up the good work my brother for God is with you. Grigalizeans await your arrival with lots of LOVE and Respect. You are the true definition of a dedicated, love and care for others, and a true Belizean my friend. I appreciate your LOVE and COURAGE my brother. God love’s you and so do I. Bungiyu buma luwagu buweiyasu numada. (God be with you on your journey my friend). Dios lebendiga. Adios.

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