Driving Diondre: Wheelchair Accessible Van Donated to Paralyzed Player

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DALLAS — It’s that time of year.  Football is back! Molina and RL Turner squared off Thursday night.

Diondre Preston played on that very field four years ago.  As the star quarter back for Molina High, he was the leader of his team and was even voted Homecoming King.

“Been loving it since I was little,” Diondre Preston said.  “Since I was four years old.”

Everyone talks about the big play, that great throw, or amazing catch.  But, there is one play Diondre’s Mom, Maya, will never forget.

“It`s a hard day,” Maya Preston explains.  “I`ve seen him go down a couple of times before you know playing.  He always bounces back up, but that particular day he didn`t bounce back up.”

That day, September 30, 2010,  Diondre sustained a catastrophic injury paralyzing him. “I remember him getting hit,” Maya said. “I remember him going down. It was actually here on this field.”

Diondre and his mom returned to Sprague Stadium this week, where they received a much needed wheelchair accessible van during halftime.

“Man excitement,” Diondre said.  “Glad to get out and do stuff.”

Diondre is gaining a little more of his freedom back, thanks to Eddie Canales. Canales is the founder of Gridiron Heroes.

“What a blessing,” Canales said.  “We are very humbled and blessed by the fact that we`re able do this to bless this family.”

“If it weren`t for them,” Diondre says shaking his head.  “We don`t know where we would be right now.’

Gridiron Heroes is the only foundation of it’s kind.  It currently helps 23-families in Texas, and 27 out of state.  The group helps players who suffered a catastrophic injury that left them paralyzed.

“There is always a little bit of help the first six months to a year,” Canales explains.  “Then there is no help.”

The costs of caring for a paralyzed player can be crippling, and too many high schools don’t have insurance for catastrophic injuries.

“You’re looking at spending anywhere from $100,000 to half a million within the first 100-days of an injury,” Canales said.

Canales feels their pain; his son Chris suffered a catastrophic injury during a game.  He founded Gridiron Heroes to help other families walk the walk.

“We work with the families one on one,” Canales said.  “Where we are able to provide them a wheelchair accessible vehicle, ramps into their homes, remodel a restroom facility that`s wheelchair accessible; things that medicare or insurance won`t pay for.”

Gil Garza, Director of Athletics of Dallas ISD, said Gridiron Heroes is long overdue.

“Very fortunate there is an organization that they can lean on,” Garza explains.  “It`s something that has been needed in these circles for a long long time.”

Now that Diondre has wheels.  What’s the first stop?

“I just get something to eat first.  I’ve been saying that all day.”

This is the first stop on Gridiron Heroes road trip and with more than 50 Gridiron Heroes to help, it looks like there will be lots of stops.