BARNESVILLE-Bradley Drake doesn't let a wheelchair hold him back. An accident left him a quadriplegic in the late 1970s, but he powers his chair to Shamrock football games and sports events at Memorial Park.
Last Sunday he tracked down a helicopter keeping his eye to the sky while traveling the back roads of Barnesville.
As it happens, a high school friend of his was the pilot. Roger Johnson, now of Indiana, stopped in town to see family and friends. Drake asked if he could take a spin, and Johnson agreed. Drake's family and a nurse from Barnesville Health Center, where Drake resides, were on hand Monday to assist and see Drake off.
T-L Photo/GLYNIS VALENTI
Bradley Drake, right, in helicopter, is ready to fly as pilot Roger Johnson, left, takes care of the last details. Drake, a quadriplegic, got a bird’s-eye view of the area last weekend, taking off from his hometown of Barnesville.
T-L Photo/GLYNIS VALENTI
Roger Johnson, rear, helicopter pilot, secures the seat belts for Bradley Drake of Barnesville for his first helicopter ride.
A helicopter ride was just one more accomplishment that Drake can scratch off his list. He paints, he's attended an Ohio State football game, he went turkey hunting last winter and plans to go deer hunting next season. Drake communicates with friends on Facebook and through emails, and said he types faster using a pencil in his mouth, up to 20 words per minute, than speaking through a voice recognition system.
He is also preparing to take online courses, working toward a counseling degree.
"I talk with friends in bad situations, with health problems, like MS," he adds. "I just want to try to help people as much as I can."
Johnson didn't give Drake's request for a ride a second thought. He's been a pilot for 31 years and has done some medical transport, but flies for corporate concerns now.
He had taken the helicopter, which is privately owned, to Tennessee for maintenance, and the owner gave his okay to fly on to Barnesville. The five-to-seven passenger copter is usually on power line patrol or transporting executives.
Drake said he wasn't nervous at all about the ride. He regularly takes risks to overcome what others may see as insurmountable limitations. He speaks with excitement about what life has to offer noting, "You can go one way or the other. You're the one who decides how your life is going to be."
Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.