Young man paralyzed in lifeguarding accident, motivational speaker become friends
A young man from Ocean County sustained a life-altering injury two years ago while working as an ocean lifeguard, but now, he's up on his feet and looking far down the road of life -- thanks to a new friendship with someone who's been through it too.
Two years ago this week, Sam Jarmer was on the job as an Ocean Grove lifeguard when first his body, and then his life were upended.
“The wave picked my feet up, flipped them so I was at a sharper angle,” says Jarmer.
Jarmer broke his neck diving into a sandbar and was left a quadriplegic.
“I didn't really grasp my injury for a couple of months,” says Jarmer.
As he came to grips with his new reality, what he needed as much as the therapy and determination was a friend who truly understands what it's like to be in his wheels.
“Scott comes in and he's just this happy guy, and I’m like this guy is pretty cool,” says Jarmer.
Scott Chesney is a Verona resident who was paralyzed at age 15 by a spinal stroke. He works as a motivational speaker. Chesney reached out to Jarmer, and a friendship was born between a young man struggling with his new reality and Chesney who, 35 years later, actually sees his injury as a blessing -- one that has brought him a wealth of opportunities, friends and human connections, including his wife whom he met at a speaking engagement.
“I honestly wouldn't trade the last 36 years of my life for anything,” says Chesney.
It's also become a partnership. Chesney and Jarmer are now teaming up to raise money for the Christopher and Dava Reeve Foundation, including at the upcoming Sea Girt 5K road race. But just as importantly, Scott and Sam's friendship has evolved into just a plain old friendship that has nothing to do with their accidents -- just two guys hanging out, leading full healthy lives.
Jarmer recently graduated high school from St. Rose in Belmar and has his sights set on college and beyond and maybe someday, back on that lifeguard stand.
Jarmer will be the grand marshal at that Sea Girt 5K on Aug. 7 benefiting the Reeve Foundation.