Walk on, Wayne Hall

By Nikki Hedrick


Shane Jernigan, Megan Welcher, and Mae McDonnell have come together to create an all-day event April 17 at KC’s Sandbar & Grill in Downtown Fort Walton to help a dream become reality.


Musician Wayne Hall was 11 when his life forever shifted, as an accidental gun shot meant he was paralyzed for the rest of his life.


“it was a definite life change, and I had to re-learn everything,” says Hall, who has spent the last 22 years in a wheelchair and now sees a new possibility on the horizon with exoskeleton systems.


“I’ve been looking at this technology for the last 10 years, but it has been super impractical. And finally something comes along…”


But it is about more than being upright, as owning the exoskeleton has profound medical benefits for Hall. He is currently on bed rest from a recent surgery directly related to being seated all the time. “The amazing thing is to have gone 22 years without an issue,” he says. “But this time it kind of caught up with me. To have something where I could get up and move around, it’s almost unreal.”


Music became a cathartic release for Hall after the accident, “I held on to it, and it helped me get through things—to express myself in a time when I didn’t know how to express myself.”


He started out with a small acoustic guitar, until a friend wowed him with an electric. From there he found himself in area rock bands, and then “slowly, I gravitated back to acoustic,” says Hall. “So I (came) full circle, and I just love the rawness of it. When you play acoustic for people, you connect on a whole other level. It’s more intimate.”


Hall and Jernigan met through music, and Jernigan now calls Hall his little brother. Jernigan is heading the Wayne Hall Walks Fund, working towards 501(c)(3) nonprofit status to help Hall currently as well as keeping an eye on future expenses.


Jernigan reiterates the medical necessity behind the exoskeleton. “Part of the problem (Wayne) is facing is that he has so much atrophy that it’s causing him more medical issues. So to be able to get up and walk four to eight hours a day—not only would it be just basically awesome, but it would help him out physically.”


To help raise the roughly $40,000 needed, Welcher and McDonnell created the April 17 event.


“We have a little bit of everything at the event,” says Welcher. “It’s kind of a music festival-slash-Yoga festival.” The event will begin with three Yoga events. Live music and comedians will kick off at 11 a.m. and run until at least 10 p.m. Raffles, a silent auction and merchandise will also be a part of the day.


“Truthfully, I can’t think of a better person to throw a fundraiser for, because he’s the most positive, amazing guy that I have ever been introduced to,” says Welcher.


“It’s going to be a great event,” says Hall. “And I can’t believe all these people that are volunteering their time to make this happen. I’m unbelievably grateful and so humble. I’ve never really asked for anything, and I’ve always been one of those people who tries to keep moving forward. And to just have all this…I’m grateful.”


Learn more about the event or donate online at WayneHallWalksFund.com or facebook.com/WayneHallWalks.

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