Galesburg man with Spina Bifida asking for standing wheelchair

GALESBURG, Ill. (NEWS3) — A local man is turning his disability into an ability to help him do the things he enjoys the most. 

Michael Martinez stays highly involved in activities and does his best to always be in attendance. He’s hoping the community will help him continue to beat all the odds by purchasing a standing wheelchair.

He’s described as a light in the room and considered the biggest fan you can have.

“He’s just Mike,” Carl Sandburg College basketball player Kennedy Jackson said.

Martinez is a 27-year-old sophomore at Carl Sandburg College who everyone knows, but not because he rolls around in a wheelchair, it’s because of his spirit for others.

“Because I was in a wheelchair, people assumed I couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that,” Martinez said. 

“He’s caring, like when you need somebody, he’s always there,” Jackson said. 

If you meet Martinez, he focuses on his ability not disability. That attitude allows him the opportunity to do normal things like coach sports teams. Martinez also does not let his Spina Bifida disability keep him from being at sports games and leading groups on campus. 

“It’s amazing to feel the love and atmosphere,” Martinez said.

“He’s very energetic,” Jackson said. “He brings life wherever he goes.” 

Now Martinez is looking to take a step further to defy all odds. 

“This chair gives Michael an opportunity to get a little more mobility,” Carl Sandburg College Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator Anthony Law said.

Martinez said purchasing the new chair would make a big difference for him, because it’s going to give him the ability to do what he has not been able to do for years.

“I was always stuck in the house, watching out the window watching my friends do things,” Martinez said.

By raising enough money for the new chair, walking and standing becomes a reality for Martinez.

“It was always, Michael can’t do this, Michael can’t do that, so why even invite him,” Martinez said. 

His biggest friends and supporters want to make a change in his life so he doesn’t have to look back on the past. 

“Michael’s going to do great things with this chair,” Law said.

Martinez hopes this encourages other people with disabilities to see that they are not left out.

“I hope whatever disability they may have, you don’t even notice it,” Martinez said.

The chair costs $5,000. Martinez was given the opportunity to purchase the chair at a reduced price from the owner. The chair stays at the school until Martinez raises enough money to take it home. A GoFundMe page has been set up for anyone who would like to donate. They are close to their goal but still need more support. You can find the link to the GoFundMe page here.

Martinez is the founder of the annual wheelchair basketball game fundraiser at Carl Sandburg College. He also is an ambassador at Carl Sandburg and serves as the honorary assistant coach to the women’s basketball, softball and volleyball teams along with the men’s basketball and baseball teams. He is the chapter president of Men of Distinction at Carl Sandburg and the group president of the Hispanic Latino Student Association. Martinez also spearheads the annual Spina Bifida awareness campaign on campus each year in an attempt to bring awareness to the birth defect that he was born with. Martinez is majoring in psychology and hopes to become a mental health counselor or sports psychologist one day.