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photo Pushin' Forward
By Izumi Tanaka
Sunnyside Pictures

“The choices you make will follow you for the rest of your life. I won’t get a second chance — I’ll live and die being paralyzed.”James Lilly

Growing up poor and Latino in Chicago, James Lilly dreamed of becoming a professional athlete, but he got sidetracked into the world of drugs and gangs. At the age of fifteen, he was shot in the back and paralyzed, but even that didn’t put an immediate end to his involvement in drug dealing and fights. Four years later he decided to get away from the gang scene, but on a final visit to the old neighborhood he was attacked and nearly killed. This time, when he recovered, he began to turn his life around. Now, he helps others to do the same thing.

James works to help inner city school kids stay on the right track by sharing his story, and by talking about one thing that helped him move on — wheelchair racing. James started racing in 1990. In 1993, he won three gold medals for the U.S. at an international championship in England. But the victory he coveted most was the Sadler's Ultra Challenge in Alaska — the world’s longest wheelchair race: 267 miles of dramatic terrain from Fairbanks to Anchorage in six days! Pushin’ Forward follows him as he takes on this grueling challenge once again.

Today James lives in a Chicago suburb with his wife and two young sons, and tries to be the kind of father he wishes his own father had been. He supports his family through speaking engagements for schools, hospitals, and youth organizations. His story has been featured on ESPN and in the Chicago Tribune, Anchorage News, Sports n’ Spokes, and New Mobility magazines. He is an inspiration for at-risk youth, people with disabilities, and anyone struggling to push forward through what seem to be overwhelming difficulties in their lives.

39 minutes
© 2007
Purchase $229.00 DVD
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-887-1
close captioned

“James survived, but he did more than that. He never gave up on life, and on impacting his community with his talks and with his amazing performances in world-class wheelchair races.” Luis J. Rodriguez

"Gives us a brief glimpse of life for, and with, a disabled athlete. A perfect example of channeling the energy of a competitive loving spirit from the negative side of life to the positive. Recommended for academic health sciences libraries and other collections focusing on disabilities." Educational Media Reviews Online

Awards & Conference Screenings
Picture This... Disability Film Festival
Western Psychological Association
WorldFest Houston Film Festival,
Silver Remi Award
American Psychological Association

Related Films
Luckey: From trying to re-spark his romantic life with his wife Ettie to keeping his work going with his son Spencer, Tom Luckey wrestles with his new condition as a paralyzed person.

Kiss My Wheels: Through an exhilarating season of training and competition, the members of a junior wheelchair basketball team deal with difficult issues, from gender conflicts to injury, illness, and thoughts of death.

A Wheelchair for Petronilia: Profiles a program, organized and run by Guatemalans with disabilities, which trains them to manufacture and repair cheap, sturdy wheelchairs designed for conditions in developing countries.

Living with Spinal Cord Injury Series: The producer, himself injured in a helicopter crash, brings a unique perspective to this classic three-part series on coming to terms with spinal cord injury. These films offer enduring proof that "a tough break doesn't have to mean a ruined life."


Awards & Screenings

Related Films

Web Resources

To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website