Disability advocate to present free motivational program

The word "can’t" is not in Reggie Bennett’s vocabulary. Neither are "won’t" and "never."

He doesn’t want them to be in your vocabulary, either.

He plans to present his motivational program, "30 Years of Evolution —- Reggie Bennett —- The Man in the Mirror," at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Adelson Educational Campus Theater, 9700 W. Hillpointe Road.

The event is free and open to the public. Bennett, a paraplegic, motivational speaker and well-known Las Vegas advocate for the disability community, promises to bring a positive, uplifting message to everyone, whether they are disabled or not.

"The man in the mirror is really a reflection of self," said Bennett, who lives in North Las Vegas. "We’re looking to motivate individuals about life, to motivate individuals to take the "dis" out of disability, which gives us the opportunity to focus on our abilities. For many of us with disabilities, we get so wrapped up in what we cannot do. My life as someone with a spinal cord injury has always been about ‘what you see in the mirror is what you can change.’ "

He has chosen to change a lot of things about his life. He took a bullet at 13 and was paralyzed from the waist down. He found an outlet in wheelchair sports and played with the Las Vegas Silver Bandits, who won the championship in the Division III National Wheelchair Basketball Association tournament in 2010.

He took the art of bodybuilding and modified it, focusing on upper body strength. He has won nearly a dozen titles in bodybuilding.

His "can do" message will be the foundation of the live event at the Adelson Educational Campus. Expect three guest speakers, as well as entertainment -singing, music and comedy – from those with disabilities who are not allowing that fact to dictate their lives.

"You have a choice," Bennett said. "If you look in the mirror say … ‘I’m not happy with my job, my car, my hair color.’ … you can change. Michael Jackson, that’s the message he had in his music. You can make that change, and it starts with self."

Bennett said his belief in the American dream includes paying it forward. He saw an example of that soon after he was paralyzed. While in the hospital, he received a visit from John Chambers, who was in charge of adaptive recreation for the city of Las Vegas. Chambers, now retired, was a rolling example – he was in a wheelchair – of how being paralyzed didn’t mean the end of enjoying life. He told Bennett that being in a wheelchair didn’t have to slow him down.

"He was a recognized athlete … he said I could play a sport, get a job, have a family," said Bennett. "I could do or be whatever I wanted to be."

The event will also introduce the concept behind RAGE, the nonprofit organization Bennett founded in 2005. RAGE, or Rebuilding All Goals Efficiently, was born out of Bennett’s frustration with a system that had those in need starting at ground zero in their search for support. It assists those who need vehicle modification or whose home needs retrofitting to be wheelchair-accessible. Among other things, RAGE directs the disabled, depending on their needs, to programs established to help them.

RAGE is headquartered at 2901 El Camino Ave., Suite 102. For more information, visit bteamrage.org.

Maxine Silver took a bad fall in September 2011. It was so bad, she had to undergo rehabilitation at a center and was put in a wheelchair. Coming home was problematic because her house was not wheelchair-accessible. RAGE ensured that her needs were met with a ramp.

She said Bennett came to see her and got involved in her case, and she was forever grateful.

"Without them I would not have been able to come home," she said. "I can’t tell you, the independence, not having to rely on the caregivers … being able to be with my surroundings, my loved ones, my pussy cat, it’s the difference in wanting to get up every day and not. When you think there’s nobody you can turn to, you have RAGE."

Tshlene Henreid works with the disabled community and often refers people to RAGE. She called it a one-stop shop for help.

"People can get lost in the system," she said. "A lot of times, it’s about paperwork. They can make one mistake (on a form), and they get denied."

She said RAGE usually can pinpoint the problem and correct it.

Bennett happily admitted that the acronym RAGE —- standing for an organization that is all about good deeds —- was a tad misleading.

"When people call, they go, ‘Wow, you guys are really pleasant. We thought this was some kind of mean organization,’ Bennett said. "When you call, we want to turn that around and show you that we have all these services to help you.

"There are many things that we cannot control. But for the things we can control, we can make a difference."

There will be an opportunity at Saturday’s event to donate to RAGE. Doors are set to open at 5 p.m., and the show will run approximately two hours. For more information, email info@bteamrage.org or call 333-1038. Accessible seating is limited, so call to prearrange.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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