The military and military culture have been a part of Paul Kelly’s life. His education at N.C. State University led him to a 32-year career as a Supervisory Electronics Engineer for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). However, Paul’s life changed when he broke his neck in a swimming pool accident shortly after college graduation, leaving his lower body completely paralyzed and extensively paralyzed his upper limbs. The injury required hospitalization and months of rehabilitation. Ultimately, Paul became dependent upon caregivers for all basic life activities. Despite his newfound challenges, he led teams and developed upgrades and modernizations of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft while working for NAVAIR. Serving as an advocate for the disabled, Paul promoted Department of Defense policies to transition wounded and disabled military personnel to civilian service. His efforts earned him the recognition of NAVAIR’s Supervisor of the Year and the Department of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award.
Paul first witnessed handcycle marathoners as a spectator at the Marine Corps Marathon. Inspired and determined, he decided to celebrate his 30th year of living with a disability by competing as a hand cyclist at the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon. While training, Paul connected with HOPE and decided to use his marathon effort to raise awareness and support for our programs. Since then, Paul and his wife Sally have raised over $110,000 in donations for our warrior community. He has participated in dozens of races across the country, serving as an inspiration and a model of resilience!