Expo for mobility impaired

SALEM — Michael Neher hasn't walked since high school; not since 1981, when he became paralyzed from the chest down.

"I broke my neck playing football when I was a sophomore," said Neher, who grew up in a Mid- Valley grass-seed farming family and attended Central Linn High School in Halsey. "About a year later I was in an accident ... I fell asleep on Coburg Road South near Eugene."

The two incidents combined left Neher in a wheelchair. It was from that chair that he helped people at the Health and Wealth Expo on Saturday afternoon at the Kroc Center.

Neher represents Performance Mobility Inc., adaptive equipment specialists out of Portland. Performance and R&J Mobility Service of Independence were two among dozens of vendors at the expo. Performance's business is helping people get around. Neher is intimately familiar with it.

"Yes, I know this business," said Neher, 46. "I just sort of stumbled into it."

The gregarious Portlander enjoys his work for what it allows him to do — help people.

"I really like helping people, especially people who are newly injured," Neher said. "I like showing them the ropes; showing them hope."

That attitude reflected what organizer Byron Loosli and expo planners sought when putting the show together, the first of its kind in the area. Loosli, the community liaison director for Oregon Paralyzed Veterans of America, said the event's ubiquitous tropical theme was part of the positive experience planners wanted to achieve.

Joys of Living, based in Keizer, was among the many vendors. The diverse range included Wellspring Center for Extraordinary Living from Woodburn, the Alzheimer's Network, Salem-Keizer Transit, Brownell Photo and Video, Costco, Senior Helpers, Marquis Spas and Willamette Financial Group, to name a few. There were also a series of motivational speakers throughout the day.

The show opened at 10 a.m. and saw more than 400 visitors before noon.

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