BURKE, Va. — A Virginia teen paralyzed in a swimming accident in Hawaii was able to walk across the stage to accept his high school diploma.
Nick Balenger has gone through intense rehabilitation since injuring himself diving into shallow water in July 2012. On Wednesday, he used a walker to cross the length of the stage and accept his diploma at Burke’s Lake Braddock High School. The former star pitcher for the school’s baseball team then switched to a cane to get down a few steps. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. Students at the school had previously only seen Balenger use a wheelchair and stand briefly.
“Ever since I got hurt I said my goal was to be on stage walking across and going down the steps,” Balenger said. “It feels great to accomplish it.”
Balenger said the standing ovation was nice, but he didn’t see it. He had to look down to see his feet as he used the walker.
“I was focusing on walking. I almost got blown over by everybody just screaming. It was awesome. It felt great,” he said.
Balenger is starting college at James Madison University in the fall. His doctors tell him that a 95 percent recovery from his injury is possible. His goal is 100 percent.
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