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Episode 24: Resilience and Commitment: Rolling with Speaker, Actor, and Athlete, Gabriel Cordell

Gabriel on stage in his wheelchair at the No Barriers Summit.In 1992, two months after his 22nd birthday, Gabriel Cordell was en route to his first professional audition when an accident changed his life forever. Only a mile and a half away from home, his Jeep was t-boned and flipped, and Cordell was ejected from his vehicle, hitting a telephone pole that crushed his spinal cord. The accident left him paralyzed from his mid-chest down. After four months of recovery and physical rehabilitation, Gabriel continued to pursue his dream of being an actor, now as a paraplegic. He established his acting career on stage and screen, with credits including CSI, Dexter, and Numb3rs as well as national ads for IBM, Maxwell House and Pizza Hut. At the age of 42, Cordell focused on a different kind of role. He became the first person to roll across the United States in a standard, manual wheelchair — a 3,100-mile journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the final destination being his hometown of West Hempstead, New York. The inspiring trek is the subject of an award-winning documentary film called, Roll With Me: A Journey Across America. In 2014, Gabriel traveled to Israel and mounted a Roll for Peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, completing that 100km journey from Haifa to Tel Aviv in his wheelchair. In 2015, he teamed with the North Shore Animal League America and Bianca’s Furry Friends to raise money and awareness, by rolling 123 miles across Long Island, New York. As a motivational speaker, Gabriel Cordell finally gets to share his inspiring story of turning tragedy into triumph.

Warning: Adult Content, please do not play with children present.

The night before our No Barriers Summit began, our hosts Dave and Erik met with Gabriel Cordell at Squaw Resort at Lake Tahoe to record. Gabriel was scheduled to speak at the No Barriers Summit opening ceremony the next evening but came in early to meet with our podcast crew.

Throughout the hour, Gabriel detailed how he dealt with his car accident at age 22 that left him paralyzed from his mid-chest down. After four months of recovery and physical rehabilitation, Gabriel continued to pursue his dream of being an actor, now as a paraplegic. He established his acting career on stage and screen, with credits including CSI, Dexter, and Numb3rs as well as national ads for IBM, Maxwell House and Pizza Hut.

I started living my dream and my first audition. My first audition, like yes and bam I get into a car accident and I end up in the wheelchair.

At the age of 42, Cordell focused on a different kind of role. He became the first person to roll across the United States in a standard, manual wheelchair — a 3,100-mile journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the final destination being his hometown of West Hempstead, New York. The inspiring trek is the subject of an award-winning documentary film called, Roll With Me: A Journey Across America. In 2014, Gabriel traveled to Israel and mounted a Roll for Peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, completing that 100km journey from Haifa to Tel Aviv in his wheelchair.

In 2015, he teamed with the North Shore Animal League America and Bianca’s Furry Friends to raise money and awareness, by rolling 123 miles across Long Island, New York. As a motivational speaker, Gabriel Cordell finally gets to share his inspiring story of turning tragedy into triumph.

Gabriel dives deep into the dark places his injury and subsequent anger and frustration led him. His truthfulness is raw and real and Gabriel goes on to talk about what inspired him to stop doing drugs, to reassess his life, and to take on the athletic challenges he pursues. Listen to hear Gabriel’s story along with his new No Barriers Pledge.

Follow Gabriel on Facebook and Twitter at @rollwithmeusa and his website, gabrielcordell.com.
Watch his film: Roll With Me on Netflix and for more info on his documentary visit: Roll With Me: The Movie

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——- EPISODE TRANSCRIPT ———

Gabriel:            Deep down inside I still knew that even though I felt worthless my life was still worth something. I knew that. Deep down inside I still had that and the promise I made to myself. I didn’t forget about that promise. It’s easy to talk about the successes but what doesn’t get talked about enough is the struggle.

Erik:                 My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I’ve gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, climbed the tallest mountain in every continent to Kayak the Grand Canyon and I happen to be blind. It’s been a struggle to live what I call a No Barriers life. To define it, to push the parameters of what it means and part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way and that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in and the summit exists a map. That map that way forward is what we call No Barriers.

Dave:                Today we meet Gabriel Cordell who was the first person to roll across the United States in a standard manual wheelchair, a 3100 mile journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Gabriel’s also a professional actor with credits that include CSI, Dexter and Numbers as well as national ads for IBM Maxwell House and Pizza Hut. As a motivational speaker Gabriel Cordell gets to share his inspiring story of turning tragedy into triumph.

Erik:                 Gabriel it’s really cool. We are here at Lake Tahoe in Squaw Valley at the beginning of our No Barriers summit so it’s really awesome. We’re psyched. You’re going to speak to our whole community tomorrow night and everyone is just totally excited about that.

Gabriel:            Honored.

Erik:                 It’s a beautiful place, beautiful temperature outside. There’s tons of snow in the mountains I understand. Isn’t it like all white above us?

Dave:                It’s all white. There’s actually skiing still available here even though we’re in mid June. Which is pretty crazy. For those listeners who don’t know what the No Barriers Summit is you should check out nobarrierssummit.org but its this four day amazing experience of speakers and performers and hundreds of activities that you can choose from. Try something you’ve never tried before. We challenge people to come here and break through the barriers they’re facing in their life and to celebrate what’s possible despite the fact that most of the people who are in attendance are facing major challenges. It’s a moment in time where you can think about all that is possible despite the things that we’re suffering through and struggling with.

Erik:                 Yeah, it parallels our podcast because it tries to break through cliché and try to get in and dissect what this No Barriers life looks like for people and how people build the tools and the mindset to break through all those barriers. Same reason we started the podcast to really try to go deep. Gabriel Cordell we are totally psyched to have you here. First of all for everybody you pushed your wheelchair, cranked your wheelchair across the USA like over 3000 miles specific to Atlantic.

Gabriel:            Yes sir.

Erik:                 For a standard wheelchair to go all the way across and human being in the wheelchair to go across the country. That’s pretty … You’re understated about that.

Dave:                It’s certainly epic.

Dave:                Roll With Me just to fill in the gaps. Roll With Me is the film that chronicles your journey and the experience and tells the story.

Gabriel:            Yes it was quite a journey. That journey took me 25 years to figure out and the journey didn’t start out me being in a wheelchair. Life happens. Ironically I got into my accident going to my first professional audition. 25 years later here I am sitting in this room.

 

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