ROK Fitness presents wounded veteran with state-of-the-art wheelchair

East Rockaway health club sponsors fundraiser, hosts holiday party; Amputee Chris Levi receives all-terrain chair


Army Rangers veteran Chris Levi loves to hunt, fish and spend time on the beach, but until recently there has been one thing that has prevented him from enjoying these activities to the fullest: Levi is a double amputee.

In March 2008, Levi, then 26 and serving in Iraq, was severely injured when an improvised explosive device hit the Humvee in which he was riding. He lost both of his legs, as well as skin, tissue and bone in his hands and arms.

When the owners of East Rockaway’s ROK Health & Fitness, Bob D’Urso and Mike Hawksby, went in search of an idea for a fundraiser, they didn’t have to look very far before their search led them to Levi, who lives in Holbrook.

“We wanted to do something during the holidays, when people have a real sense of giving,” said D’Urso, “and we found the Actiontrack Chair.”

The chair, manufactured by Action Mobility Inc., is an innovative, all-terrain wheelchair that can be used off-road — on beaches and mountain roads, in campgrounds, in the woods and in the mud, rain or snow. After researching the chair, D’Urso and Hawksby purchased one — for $16,000, after taxes and other expenses — and put it on display at their East Rockaway facility.

“People want to know where their money goes when they give to a worthy cause,” said D’Urso. “This way, they could see it, touch it, feel it. They understand that whatever they donated would go directly to this chair. And we wanted to make this a community effort.”

Finding a worthy recipient, said Hawksby, was a little trickier, because, he said that thankfully there aren’t too many amputees in our immediate area. But with help from the National Amputation Foundation, in Malverne, they were directed to and ultimately interviewed Levi. “He and the chair seemed like a perfect fit,” he said.

Members of ROK and the community managed to raise $8,500 — a little more than half of its cost. They raised the other half with help from the Veterans Coalition of Nassau County.

“With the help of the VFW, we did start a movement here,” said D’Urso. “Dan McPhee, the commander of Post No. 1384 in Long Beach, is also the head of the Veterans Coalition. He helped us tremendously. We took the chair to VFW meetings so they could see it.”

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