KENT, Ohio — In the nearly three years since Matt Parisi suffered a spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident, he has learned to appreciate miracles large and small.
“I tell people, ‘If there’s nothing to be grateful for, put your hand across your chest because your heart’s still beating,’” he said.
In August 2019, the Akron man was involved in a suspected hit-and-run crash while riding his motorcycle. He woke up in the hospital five days later completely paralyzed and only able to feel altered sensations.
“I was given a 20% chance to ever walk again after one year,” he recalled.
Through physical therapy and treatments, Parisi has regained strength and can now walk with the assistance of crutches.
In his third summer since the accident, he has been mowing lawns to stay busy and earn some extra money. The activity is what brought him to Akron Boulevard in Kent on Sunday and how he met a group of young friends who left an impression.
Parisi was tending long grass with his riding lawnmower in front of a duplex when he pulled into a drainage ditch near the street, bottomed out the machine and became stuck.
A woman inside one of the nearby homes saw Parisi’s predicament and called for her sons and their friends to see if they could help.
“Our friends were on the back of the trampoline jumping around. And [my friend’s] brother came up to the front to see what was happening. And then he called all of us to come over and help him out,” explained Tyler Ellington, 13.
In all, 13 boys ages of 8-16 pitched in to help. The impromptu rescue took strategy.
“This thing’s heavy,” Parisi said about the mower. “I’m like, ‘Yeah it’s about a thousand pounds.’ They’re like, ‘What? That’s as much as an elephant!’”
Codey Fortson, 16, said, “I didn’t think we could do it at first.”
Each of the boys grabbed a part of the mower and they lifted it together.
“If it was just a couple of people, yeah, it would feel heavier,” one boy said. “But it was a lot of us so it didn’t feel as heavy.”
Parisi said there was cheering when the group freed him from the ditch.
“I believe God put them in my path and I got stuck like that for a reason on that day for that to happen like that,” he said.
Friday, Parisi returned to the neighborhood with his family to thank the boys with homemade treats and ice cream. The group talked about what the good deed meant to everyone.
“I just want to say thanks for having trust in us and thanks for giving us the opportunity to help you get up out of this ditch,” one boy said to Parisi.
He responded, “No man, seriously, all the thanks to you. You guys are awesome.”
As of Friday afternoon, a photo Parisi posted on social media had garnered nearly 1,000 ‘likes’ and had been shared almost 900 times. He explained the simple gesture was a refreshing example of positivity.
“I’m just starstruck [by] the fact that they didn’t care, they just wanted to help,” Parisi said.
The group of young friends said they also felt proud to know they made a positive impact.
“If you see somebody and they need help, help them because you never know what could happen,” one boy said.
Another added, “You never know what somebody’s going through.”
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