Seeing as Chelsie Hill is from California and just barely out of her teens, it might be tempting to label her a valley girl based on how frequently she uses the word “crazy” to describe her life. But after hearing what she is working on and what she has accomplished in the two years since she was paralyzed in an auto accident, it is hard to fault her word choice.
On the Friday that Hill was interviewed for this article, she was waiting for one of her fellow Hot Wheelz dancers to show up at a fundraiser outside a Whole Foods for the Walk and Roll Foundation. She had just returned to California from a performance in New York the day before and was gearing up for the second season of the reality show Push Girls, which she joined during its successful first year. If that sounds pretty “crazy,” consider that Hill, 20, had founded Hot Wheelz, a troop of seven female dancers in wheelchairs, just three months earlier, and had founded the Walk and Roll Foundation just over a year before that. “It’s been crazy, but it’s been so fun,” she says. “I’m only 20, but I feel like I’m 25 years old and have started on my career.”
Like many people, Hill says she wasn’t sure which direction to head after her injury. She found clarity driving home with her dad, Jon, from a successful rehab stint at Project Walk in Carlsbad, Calif. The two had discussed the idea of starting a nonprofit and their vision gelled as they discussed the long-term goal of opening a facility like Project Walk closer to their Northern California home. “We came up with the name ‘Walk and Roll’ and we literally looked at each other and said, ‘That’s perfect!’”
Chelsie and Jon started The Walk and Roll Foundation with the goals of educating the public about SCI, helping people with SCI succeed and working to build a specialized therapy clinic for people with SCI in Northern California. Since the foundation’s inception, Hill and her father estimate they have spoken to over 20,000 high school students while raising thousands of dollars. Hill has also been working to achieve her personal goal of having a successful dance career. A dancer since the age of 3, Hill rekindled her passion when she joined the Colours ‘n’ Motion crew in October 2010. Two years later, Hill founded Hot Wheelz to expand her creative opportunities and give her a chance to dance with other friends. The group came together quickly. A one-week boot camp of 14-hour days led to two well-received performances in three days and an exploding Facebook fanbase. The group has since performed at numerous events, a trend Hill doesn’t expect to stop.
“My goal in life before my accident was to be traveling around and performing, and I’m doing it,” she says. “I’m living my dream.”