Utah takes center stage in Tuesday's edition of HBO's award-winning series “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” — in a segment that just might bring a tear to your eye.
The report, titled “Flight Club,” looks at the paragliders whom those of us who live here have become accustomed to seeing at the Point of the Mountain. But what’s being spotlighted here in Draper is anything but common.
The segment focuses on Chris Santacroce and Project Airtime, which allows people who are paralyzed to soar — both literally and figuratively.
“You feel like you’re a bird. I mean, you feel like Superman,” said Matt Thomas, who’s paralyzed from the chest down.
It’s inspiring to see Thomas in the air. It’s sobering to hear him say, “Being paralyzed is being like confined to a prison. And that first solo flight was like being pardoned after a sentence of a lifelong imprisonment. And I was just like, ‘Free at last! Free at last!’”
Santacroce gets that. After suffering a serious spinal injury himself and wondering if he would be paralyzed, he set out to provide the freedom of flight to those who didn't recover.
“He's definitely changing lives,” Joe Stone, who was paralyzed in a paragliding accident, tells reporter Jon Frankel. “He's changed my life forever.”
The segment on “Real Sports” (repeating on HBO through Dec. 13 and available on demand beginning Monday) is emotionally powerful. And it gets even more powerful when we meet Reese Thorne, who was born with cerebral palsy and a rare brain malformation. Doctors told his mother, Carla, he wouldn’t live past the age of 2; at 14, his greatest joy is paragliding.
“I think it gives him a freedom that he doesn’t feel anywhere else,” Carla Thorne says. “I mean, his body has such limitations. And after the first time, he smiled all the way home. He smiled all night long. And any time you talk about it … he just starts smiling.”
Just try not to tear up when you see that.