By Libby Hopkins
Antonio Dowels of Riverview is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. He volunteers at his church, Holy Outreach for Christ and he feeds the homeless and is a mentor to many people in the community. Dowels doesn’t let anything stand in his way of helping others or achieving his dream of being a sports lawyer, not even his wheelchair. “I set high goals for myself because if you see what you did in the past, it shapes what you can do in the future,” Dowels said.
In 2007, when Dowels was a student at Riverview High School, he was on the football and track team. He was on his way home from a regional track meet and it was late at night. Dowels was tired, but since he was only a few minutes from home, he kept driving.
“I fell asleep while driving and a semi truck was turning on to U.S. 301 and I ran underneath the truck,” Dowels said. “The truck dragged me for 400 yards and they had to use the Jaws of Life to get me out of my car.”
He spent the next three months in the hospital. The accident left him paralyzed from the chest down with limited use of his hands. After months of rehabilitation, he graduated from high school with honors and got a scholarship to UF.
He will be attending law school at St. Thomas University in Miami in the fall.
The only obstacle standing in Dowels way of attending law school in the fall is transportation. He has tried for a while now to get the type of vehicle he needs to get around, but the costs for conversions are very high. He found a contest to win a wheelchair accessible van through The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA).
“I have eight weeks to get 30,000 votes to be in the top 10 percent for a chance to win the van,” Dowels said.
He currently has more than 5,000 votes and the contest ends on Friday, May 9. “Winning the van would truly allow me to be more independent,” Dowels said. “It would be such a blessing.”
To help Dowels win the wheelchair accessible van, vote for him daily at, mobilityawarenessmonth.comentrant/ antonio-dowels-riverview-fl.
Supporters will need to set up a log-in and password and can only vote once every 24-hours. Dowels loves helping the community and he hopes the community will help him achieve his dreams.