This is one of those inspiring stories that I’m always privileged to share because it defines what “true grit” is all about. Chelsie Hill has been paralyzed and living in a wheelchair her entire adult life. Thanks to a drunk driver who nearly ended her young life in 2010, the then 17-year-old high school senior was in the hospital for 51 days and was left paralyzed from the waist down, her dream of becoming a dancer almost shattered.
“The only thing that I loved was dance,” she told CBS News at the time. For most, that life altering accident would almost surly define us for the rest of our lives. However, for Chelsie the accident was simply an obstacle that needed to be dealt with. “I wanted to prove to my community and to myself, that I was still ‘normal,’” she told Teen Vogue. “Whatever normal meant.”
“Normal” for the Pacific Grove native meant that from here on out she would need to perfect her dance moves while tethered to a wheelchair. “Half of my body was taken away from me, and I have to move it with my hands. It definitely took a lot of learning and patience,” said Hill.
The hard work eventually paid off. Networking online with other individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries, Chelsie formed her own dance troupe in 2014 consisting of dancers with disabilities she calls the “Rollettes.”
These Dancers in Wheelchairs are breaking barriers and inspiring girls everywhere! 💪 @ChelsieHill @Rollettes_LA pic.twitter.com/AQrjjgIxhf— The Female Lead (@the_female_lead) August 19, 2020
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“I want to break down the stereotype of wheelchair users and show that dance is dance, whether you’re walking or you’re rolling,” she told CBS News.
Fast forward to the present, Hill is still breaking down stereotypes. After a whirlwind romance, the wheelchair-bound bride has promised herself that she would surprise everyone within her wedding party (including her fiancé) and those in attendance that she would walk down the aisle on her own.
Hill had told her fiancé, Jay Bloomfield, at a lodge in Huntington Seashore, California that she was going to go down the aisle in her wheelchair. “He did not know me after I was strolling, so for me, it wasn’t actually a part of our relationship. I made it appear to be I used to be going to roll down the aisle and roll again.”
Unbeknown to Bloomfield and almost everyone in attendance, Hill had been practicing and rehearsing for months, determined to walk on her own wearing leg braces hidden under her bridal gown.
“I’ve stood up earlier than with the leg braces, I’ve walked round with them, however nothing like with an extended gown on and never with the ability to see my legs,” she stated. “So, I needed to observe for about six months with the leg braces with a view to actually know that I might stand there and stroll with my eyes ahead and never absolutely on the floor the entire time.”
On the day of the wedding it rained. Hill began to feel nervous that she might not be able to pull this off, but she reminded herself that after 11 years sitting in her wheelchair, she was able to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer in-spite of her disability. After that, the butterflies quickly vanished.
The wedding march began and Hill (with the additional help of a walker) began walking slowly down the aisle, as shocked guests looked on in disbelief.
“The entire hotel balconies were completely felled with people standing there like [shocked],” she stated. “So, I didn’t know that. When I was walking down the aisle, every one of our guests faded away and it was just Jay and I.”
Hill continued, “You don’t have to walk down the aisle in order to have a beautiful and meaningful wedding. Walking, for some people, isn’t the world. And some people can’t walk at all; they won’t even have that option. And you’ll still have such a beautiful wedding, no matter what.”
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