This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SANDY — There’s a certain sense of freedom paragliders feel when they’re in the air.
Joe Stone can’t get enough of it.
“While you’re doing it, you kind of forget about everything in life,” said Stone. “It’s hard to find things that will completely allow you to disconnect.”
That’s because, for Stone, when he’s up there flying around, it’s not just freedom he feels.
“It’s the only thing I have ever experienced where I’m truly on par with everybody around me,” he said.
You see, eight years ago, his whole life changed when something went wrong and he crashed.
“I was up about 150 or 200 feet, doing some maneuvers and made some mistakes, which created line twist which sent me spiraling down and crashed into the side of a mountain,” said Stone. “I had eight broken vertebrae throughout my neck and back and spinal cord damage at the c7 level.”
When he woke up from his medically induced coma, doctors told him he was now a paraplegic.
He was 25 years old at the time.
“I knew nothing about disabilities and knew nothing about what a person with disabilities was capable of doing,” said Stone.
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, though, Stone, who normally lives in Missoula, Montana, started coming to Utah more often to be with friends and to keep paragliding at the Point of the Mountain in Draper.
“We’ve taken the flying with the wheelchair further than any of us thought it could go,” said Stone with a smile.
He also started travelling the country with his service dog Henry to talk to disabled people, especially children, letting them know they really can do whatever they want.
“I can show them the ability that lies within disability,” he said. “HBO is filming a piece to do on Project Airtime, so that’s why I’m down here right now,” said Stone.
However, when Stone came back to his Sandy hotel Wednesday evening, his camper trailer was gone.
Only the red plastic wheel chocks were left in the parking space where he left the trailer.
“I don’t think anybody that’s out stealing stuff is really thinking about the impact that it’s having on the individual,” said Stone.
If the thieves knew about the camper, they would know it was specifically designed for Stone’s disability to allow him to better travel, live and sleep all across the country to speak to others.
“I’ve been traveling around quite a bit over the years, figuring out how to do it. And how to do it independently,” he said. “And at the end of the day, these are material things that can be replaced, but when it’s your home, it’s like, this is going to take a while to fix this. It’s not going to happen tomorrow. Unless it’s found.”
He’s hoping that will soon happen, so once again, he can feel freedom.
A GoFundMe* site has been set up to help Stone.
The Sandy Police Department is investigating this case.
*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.