Releasing Renee: Naples arts community plans fundraiser to support quadriplegic
By Shelby Reynolds, for the Naples Daily News
Editor’s note: In 2014, Renee Whisner, an Air Force veteran, was thrown from a vehicle in India, severing her spine and, with it, her dreams of becoming a yoga instructor. Now she may have a second chance.
It’s only in her dreams that Renee Whisner can walk.
She’s learned to treasure those fleeting images that play out in her sleepy mind, when her 5-foot-2-inch frame isn’t in her 450-pound wheelchair — she calls it a “machine” — but when she can walk through her life with purpose and poise once again.
“The Renee in my head is not the same Renee I see in the mirror,” the North Naples woman said.
Since the car crash three years ago that left her a quadriplegic, Whisner, 45, misses traveling, hiking and rollerblading. She misses the little things, too, like the feel of the paper between her thumb and index finger as she turns the page of a good book. Now she has to read on a tablet, and it makes her feel tired.
She misses the rev of her motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson Buell, a sportbike known for its speed.
She misses her independence. The way she used to jump in a car and go for a drive. Make her own phone calls. Scratch an itch without having to call for help.
But now Whisner, an Air Force veteran, has a shot at leaving her “machine,” with its pink cushions and purple rims. She’s been accepted to a rigorous, and expensive, therapy program. And the Naples arts community will combine forces Friday to help fund the $50,000 it will take to send her there.
“I want to get up out of this chair and walk away,” she said. “I do believe it can happen. It just takes the right people to help me get there.”