Pictures of Chris Martini's young life include little league baseball, hugging favorite pets, and strolling on his favorite golf course. Nothing in them reveals the rebel within him that took over his teen years.
"At the age of 16, I was involved in some things I probably shouldn't have been," Chris said.
Those things included staying out too late partying and experimenting with drugs and booze. That kind of risk-taking often leads to a tragic ending.
"One night I was leaving a party after having too much to drink," Chris recalled. "I went off the road. My car hit an embankment. I was ejected through my driver side window and pinned between a tree and my car. I was told that I would probably not walk again."
That was 15 years ago. Chris hasn't walked a step since, the consequence of a bad decision. Something he now warns teens can happen to them.
Chris volunteers to talk to as many teens as he can. He hopes to make a connection with kids who typically will tune out their parents.
"I think my story can resonate with them more because you can actually see the results," Chris said during a stop at a teen gathering spot.
While visiting the Nightlife Center, a faith-based Sarasota after-school recreation center for teens, a group of kids vulnerable to risk taking was captivated by what Chris had to say.
"It touches a lot of people," said Sarah Kibort, who is 16.
Jamel Abrams, also 16, was moved, too.
"It's like he's talking directly to you," Jamel said.
Emily Conrad, 15, took Chris' message to heart: "It makes me think on like what to do and what like I shouldn't do."
Chris' wheelchair confinement hasn't deterred him from taking on challenges like training for his first marathon, a 13-mile event in March.
"Right now, I'm at six miles. I will be doing the higher increments as time goes, but I actually feel good right now," Chris said as he finished a training session.
Several donors have sponsored him for the event, which will then fund and grow his teen outreach.
"And hopefully prevent them from making the same mistakes that I did," Chris said.
If you'd contact Chris, visit www.nightlifecenter.com. And if you'd like to donate you can send a check to this address: 6240 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida. 34232. Also visit grouprev.com/chrismartini.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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