“I’m a daredevil...I like being free.”
For longtime Tehachapi resident Jacob Sawade, cerebral palsy has never gotten in the way of living adventurously — riding quads, biking and skydiving are just a few of his favorite pastimes. But because of a recent surgery, Sawade has had to use a wheelchair more. He is seeking a new way to get around safely, and to more places he has never been able to venture.
“I still feel like I could do anything, but I can’t do as much, since I’m getting older,” said Sawade, who is now 37 and had the disease onset from birth.
After about a year of searching for a chair that would suit his needs, Sawade had the chance to test ride an Action Trackchair in early August at Hart Park in Bakersfield. The chair is made to go off-pavement over bumps and other obstacles, and can even go through sand, water and snow.
That day at Hart Park, he was also able to stand on his own for the first time with the Trackchair, which can lift and support him.
“I have never seen a bigger smile on his face in my entire life,” said Jacob Fowlkes, one of Sawade’s friends.
Sawade has set up a GoFundMe and a bank account in his name to raise the goal of $25,000 for both the chair and a ramp that would help him get in and out of the car.
Sawade said this chair would give him more freedom, allowing him to go on the beach for the first time without being carried or go out with friends on trails and other places in Tehachapi. It would also be a ticket for independence — with his current chair, he frequently gets stuck and needs assistance from friends or family.
Insurance will not cover something like the Action Trackchair for Sawade, whose chair has malfunctioned in the past, so he needs the support of his community.
“We want to get him a chair that he’s going to enjoy,” Fowlkes said.
Sawade has always been sure to keep active. He said he is often at the gym, has done the 45-mile Gran Fondo bike race that goes through Tehachapi, and loves being on a quad. He has even been skydiving twice and wants to go back.
He used to frequently get around by crawling, but had to end that about a year ago because of difficulties with his hands.
“It was a hard time for a while to change from all over on my knees to sitting in a wheelchair… I used to get home and jump right out,” Sawade said.
With this new chair, Sawade knows that life will not necessarily become easy, but he wants the ability to go out and do the things he loves and inspire others to do the same.
“I’ll always have complications, it’s just life. I’m not quitting; everybody knows that,” Sawade said.
To donate to help Sawade get an Action Trackchair, you can visit the GoFundMe page “Jake’s Freedom Ride” or make a donation at any Bank of the Sierra location to account number 2201556105 and routing number 121137027. You can also tell the bank the donation is for Jacob Sawade's account or Jake's Wheelchair Fund.
The hope is for Sawade to have a new chair within a year, once everything is ordered, built and adjusted to his specifications.
“My motto is take it one day at a time,” Sawade said.