Many years ago, after Fred Meyling served his country in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged in June 1976, he fell from a roof and broke his back. Tragically,the accident left him with a serious spinal cord injury no confined to a wheelchair. Thankfully, however, after he moved back to California with his wife and three daughters, where some intense treatment and physical therapy combined with warmer weather and allowed him to recover and walk again on his own. His cure, as it was, was temporary, however, and a few months later, he reinjured himself in a freak accident in which he lifted something wrong and ended up back in the wheelchair.
That was in 1984. What became clear to Fred Meyling after his injuries was that having a disability made life very difficult. Not only was finding work hard because employers too often assumed that someone in a wheelchair was incapable of doing most jobs, but life otherwise was harder, as well. In fact, that is why he started several small businesses just to make ends meet. In the 30-plus years since, Fred Meyling has worked with non-profit groups that assist the disabled.
Spinal cord injuries are rare. Statistics note that there are fewer than 200,000 cases — of varying kinds — in the U.S. per year. But for those individuals whose lives are forever changed by an SCI, being one of those cases can change everything. And that happened for Fred Meyling, an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran. It was June 1976 and one falling accident from a rooftop cause a broken back and the SCI that altered his life. From there, he family — a wife and three children — relocated across the country to California from Pennsylvania. Three years of hard work on Meyling’s part paid off, however, and after intense physical therapy and exercise, he regained the ability to walk. But a small twisting motion at his own home in 1984 disrupted the spine injury. After two months in the hospital, Meyling was in a wheelchair.
Unable to find work, he attempted small businesses, but found a path through nonprofit work close to his heart. From flight to sailing, he found hobbies that also became volunteer work as well. Additionally, he helped organizations create new opportunities for those with disabilities, including the Handicap Services Department at Sun n Fun where he dedicated three decades of work.
Approximately two years ago, Fred Meyling was diagnosed with the blood order hemochromatosis, which affects his liver and kidneys. He is currently undergoing treatment and, alongside his wife, Patty, searching for a new home near the water.
After two spinal cord injuries, Fred Meyling found himself in California with a wife and three kids and no job. Employment became almost impossible as employers looked at him as incapable due to his wheelchair. It was at this time that he began to get creative to earn a living and take care of his family and he became passionate for the cause.
Facing rejection on a daily basis inspired him. This was an incredibly painful time in his life and he realized that he is a part of a large group that feels this pain regularly. He began starting small businesses in order to feed his family and with this, chose to work primarily with nonprofit groups specifically. After making it through this difficult time, he was able to begin running his own nonprofit that was specially designed for helping people with disabilities. He then began working on his dream which was to become a pilot and after years of study and hard work, he achieved his dream. He has now flown many different planes and continues to be passionate about volunteer work. He has been volunteering for Sun n Fun for over 30 years. For this organization, he started their “Handicap Services Department” and is also a chairman for other departments. His passion is what has gotten him through challenging times and kept him fighting for those that can’t fight for themselves.