Local man joining Donna Marathon, using his disability to inspire others

Donna marathon draws worldwide inspiration

Thousands of people from across the country are in Jacksonville this weekend to fight back against breast cancer.

The Donna Marathon started 12 years ago and has been growing every year.

STORY: Annual Donna Marathon to end breast cancer is on Sunday; here's what you need know

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Joel Howe has participated in the marathon for the past three years after suffering a serious brain injury. Howe said he is proof that anything is possible and he’s encouraging others to live by this motto.

“I was involved in a single-car accident at the end of 2006. It beat me up pretty well in the car before it finally ejected me out on the pavement,” Howe said.

He said it’s been 13 years since his car went off the road, causing his SUV to roll over on Southside Boulevard.

Howe had to be resuscitated twice and spent four months in a coma, leaving him with serious brain injuries. Although it was a miserable incident, there was joy that came out of it.

As part of his healing process and with help from Brooks Rehabilitation, he developed a love for playing sports geared toward his disability.

“I actually made a 90 degree turn after my accident, 180 degree turn, because I had a very unhealthy lifestyle before. I started doing hand cycling, rowing, all the outdoor activities, and I found a passion in it, especially rowing,” Howe said.

Howe’s body was never the same after the accident, but he learned new ways to live.

He said it took him a year to learn how to walk again. Now he’s cycling in the Donna Marathon to show support for those who have cancers and disabilities.

This year is his third year participating in the marathon. Now he’s encouraging anyone with doubts about recovering from a disability that they can begin again.

“I just simply say never give up, Never say you can’t. Always take that next step, no matter how small. Just make sure you take a step,” Howe said.