The idea was sparked three weeks ago, when Columbus area wheelchair users ORee Crittenden and Kristine Newbold saw flesh-eating disease survivor Aimee Copeland speak at Columbus State University.
They heard Copeland’s inspiring story, how she still lives an active life — even zip-lining again — despite a 2012 zip-lining accident that allowed a deadly bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis, to invade her body and steal her left leg, her right foot and both hands.
Newbold and Crittenden also have been active despite their disabilities.
Newbold, 52, of Pittsview, has been in a wheelchair since the age of 5 due to a brittle bone disease. After retiring in 2013 from 22 years as a human resources manager with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, she has starred in the “Rollin with Kristine” wheelchair travel show on YouTube, including whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee River, but she hadn’t zip-lined over it.
Crittenden, 44, of Columbus, has been in a wheelchair since he broke his neck 16 years ago while trying to retrieve a boy’s lost kite in the ocean. Since then, the assistant director of Access 2 Independence, which helps the disabled live independently, has hiked part of the Appalachian Trail and skydived and even zip-lined, but he hadn’t been on this longer and higher course, the Blue Heron, the only zip line that connects two states.
So they agreed to meet Monday at Whitewater Express, which operates the Blue Heron Adventure, and go zip-lining together for another opportunity to show disabled folks doing amazing stuff.
“If I can get a cohort, I will always do something like this,” Crittenden said. “It’s just that extra push.”
He and Newbold also needed a piggyback — because zip-lining 1,200 feet from Georgia to Alabama as fast as 40 mph on that wire 100-feet above the Chattahoochee River was the easy part, compared to climbing the 65 steps to reach the top of the 70-foot tower for the start of their thrill ride.
Thanks to the strong backs of Whitewater Express guides Brentley Hudson and Will Chambliss, they had no problem.
“The guys were really helpful, easygoing and very accommodating,” Crittenden said.
After the Whitewater Express cart drove them from the Phenix City side, across the Dillingham Street bridge and back to Bay Avenue store in Columbus, Newbold gushed, “Oh, man. It was really invigorating and very cool.”
Crittenden said, “Had a blast going across the river. It was great.”
The message: “Anything is possible, with maybe a little bit of planning,” Crittenden said. “You don’t know until you try.”
Newbold added, “Look at obstacles as challenges and be inventive in overcoming them.”
Their next adventure? They laughed and responded with the same idea.
“Maybe she’s going to convince me to jump out of a plane again,” Crittenden said.
“Yeah,” Newbold said, “maybe he’ll convince me to jump out for the first time.”