As part of his reception, Rosalie Norton, president of the West Hempstead Civic Association, awarded Aghabi a Certificate of Achievement in recognition of his dedication. “Our organization is always ready and willing to recognize extraordinary feats,” Norton told the Herald. “We think it’s important to express appreciation for something that is really positive for our community.”
Though Aghabi missed his class reunion, several members of West Hempstead High’s class of 1988 showed their support as their classmate wheeled into the circle outside their alma mater. “He’s shown me that any disabled person can get over any challenge,” said Laurene Baumann, a classmate who is also disabled.
Aghabi thanked his “Roll with Me” film crew — producers Joshua Streeter, Angel Marckwordt, Chris Yanke and Christian Link, blogger Derek Gibbs, director Lisa France and his nephew and associate producer, Chris Kawas — for helping him achieve his vision for the project.
“I hope people will see that the human will is limitless,” he said of the film. “I just want people to question and challenge themselves — the greatest challenge for oneself is to test oneself.”
One person who took on such a challenge was Kawas, who struggled with drug addiction before joining his uncle on what became a “cleansing experience,” enduring the highs and lows of both the road and the detox process.
“I learned how to survive on this trip,” said Kawas, 22, after finishing the journey and marking his 104th day of sobriety. “I learned how to become more forgiving, more sincere and more patient.”
On their way across the country, Aghabi and his crew faced challenges that tested their resolve to carry on — from his major shoulder pain when they reached Deming, N.M., to rolling through torrential rains and high winds from a monster storm in Tornado Alley.
Aghabi said that part of what kept him going was the overwhelming support and generosity of not only friends, but total strangers along the way. Hometown friends Michael Schultz, Matt Gunn and Henry Maringo met up with him in Pennsylvania with their bicycles to accompany him as he took on steep mountains over the course of two days.