As the sun was coming up over the Santa Monica Pier Saturday morning, West Hempstead native Suheil Aghabi rolled his wheelchair past the large Ferris wheel to begin his 3,300-mile cross-country trek.
Aghabi’s official send-off was scheduled for Monday morning outside the Burbank YMCA, where the paralyzed 42-year-old actor and recovering drug addict has been training for months.
However, Aghabi, who also goes by Gabriel Cordell professionally, and the film crew documenting his journey, decided to start two days earlier. He rolled 18.9 miles from Santa Monica to Burbank, so that he will be able to say he pushed his standard wheelchair from the coast to coast when he arrives in Long Island this June.
“There he is. Day 1, a secret. No one knew,” said filmmaker Lisa France in a video she posted on Facebook Saturday afternoon, in which she was riding a bicycle in front of Aghabi.
His plan is to roll to West Hempstead, which is both the place where he grew up and where he was involved in a car accident 20 years ago that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“It’s miraculous, inspiring and truly amazing,” France said Monday, as she watched Aghabi push his wheelchair for the second day of their trip. They were about 10 miles out of Burbank, where Aghabi received a big send-off around 9 a.m. from friends, family and the city’s mayor.
Aghabi will roll through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and New York, finishing at West Hempstead High School on June 10 if all goes according to plan. You can follow him as he makes his way across the country, using the interactive map at rollwithme.org.