June 13, 2012 -- A dream 17 years-in-the-making came true for a California boy when he got out of his wheelchair and walked to accept his high school diploma.
Patrick Ivison, a senior at Scripps High School in San Diego, was just 14-months-old when he was run over by a stranger's car while walking with his mom, Jennifer Kayler. The September 1995 accident left Ivison with a spinal cord injury so severe he was paralyzed from the waist down.
After six weeks in the hospital, Ivison was sent home in a wheelchair. The family's life was changed forever, but they kept their spirits high.
"I was just grateful. I was grateful he was with me," Kayler told local ABC affiliate ABC10. "I was grateful that I get to hear him laugh and the fact that he was going to be in a wheelchair didn't matter."
Ivison kept the same attitude as his mom and transformed his disability into a capability. He learned to kayak, ski , hand-cycle marathon-length distances, play rugby and even surf, using adaptive equipment to ride the waves. His passion for surfing took him to Costa Rica twice to film a surf documentary and to the competitive U.S. Open of Surfing for five consecutive years, according to his family's website.
Three years ago Ivison focused in on another goal, walking across the stage to accept his diploma at his high school graduation. He spent as many as six hours per day in intensive physical therapy in a California-based rehabilitation program called "Project Walk" to build his muscles and increase his coordination.
"I'm actually pretty nervous. There's going to be a lot of pressure," Ivison said in the weeks before the big day, as reported by his mom on the family's blog.
On Tuesday night, in front of a cheering crowd of his classmates, teachers, friends and family members, Ivison had nothing to worry about.
Video of the ceremony shows Ivison standing up and, aided by his trainer and a custom-made walker, walking to accept his degree. Also walking next to Ivison was his service dog, Richochet, who received his own special award for helping his owner through high school.
Ivison, who graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average, plans to attend the University of Southern California's film school, his "dream school," in the fall. Don't be surprised to see another story about him in four years.
"Maybe do like jumping jacks at college graduation or something like that?" he told ABC10 of his next goal. "I don't know… let's not put that for sure because I can't commit to that one."