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We can only imagine the feeling for someone who is paralyzed to be able to stand up and take part in activities that had previously been impossible. James “Tip” Tipton, a North Carroll High School graduate and a veteran of 22 years in the U.S. Air Force, knows that feeling. He’s getting to know the feeling of helping others know that feeling, too. And wants to do even more.

Tipton, who now lives in Florida, is back in Carroll County this week to speak at an American Legion on Tuesday and to participate in a fundraiser Wednesday. Medically retiring from the Air Force after an accident left him paralyzed, Tipton became active in wheelchair sports and then acquired a special cart that allows him to stand up and participate in athletic activities. He will be raising money to help purchase these FDA-approved carts — known as the Paramobile — for other veterans who need them through his chapter of the Stand Up and Play Foundation.

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“You can stand up and shoot archery, play golf, even go out on a beach where the sand is firm enough," Tipton told us about the Paramobile. The Wednesday fundraiser will take place at Greenmount Station restaurant in Hampstead, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. It is $45 in advance, $50 at the door, for a buffet dinner with two drink tickets. Before that, he will tell his story at Carroll Post 31 in Westminster during the annual American Legion veterans luncheon. He has quite the story to tell.

Tipton began his military career working with nuclear weapons before being cross-trained on conventional munitions. He had deployments from Kuwait to Turkey to California. He took part in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, among others. He did two tours in Iraq, his last ending in 2008. He went through hell, he said, but was not seriously wounded.

“But when I came home three days after my last tour in Iraq, a lady ran a stop sign and hit me head on and broke my back,” he told us. “That’s how I ultimately wound up in a wheelchair.”

Tipton had always been active, maintaining 9% body fat through an athletic training regimen that saw him playing everything from lacrosse to basketball to fast-pitch softball. After the accident, he spent years in physical therapy as well as mental health therapy, but he was struggling. “I was in a really dark place," he told us. "When people become paralyzed, amputees, quadriplegics, paraplegics; they get this reserved thought in their minds sometimes that their life is over. Or that sometimes we can’t go on.”

He emerged from that dark place by realizing how precious life is and by getting help from the chairman of the American Wheelchair Bowling Association. Tipton wound up winning gold in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. And he met Antoni Netto, co-inventor of the Parmobile.

Netto donated one of the all-terrain wheelchairs to Tipton, changing his life. Shortly thereafter, Tipton called Netto to say he wanted to be a part of the Stand Up and Play Foundation, telling Netto, "I need to give the gift. I need to help people.” And now he does. So far in 2019, the foundation has issued 46 Paramobile chairs to veterans or other amputees or paraplegics.

Todd Mitchell, finance officer at Post 31, is an old friend of Tipton’s. When Mitchell learned how Tipton was helping others, he wanted to be a part of it, too, and helped organize the fundraiser. “It’s made such a difference in his life,” Mitchell said.

Tipton said helping others overcome exactly what he has been through is priceless. But the life-changing Paramobiles do have a price — they cost around $30,000. Which is why Tipton hopes to raise as much as possible on Wednesday at Greenmount Station.

It sounds like a most worthwhile cause. We’d encourage anyone to attend who is able and, in doing so, help Tipton help others. For tickets to Wednesday’s fundraiser, call Mitchell at 410-967-5454 or email tmitchell@janney.com.

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