Only on 12: Augusta man training to take friend on 'Freedom Experience' triathlon

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email
Freedom Opportunity

And this journey is proving to be an emotional one for both Stevie Dement and Corbin McKenzie. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 28, 2012)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Sept. 28, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's before dawn and Stevie Dement is getting ready for a swim, but it's no ordinary dip.

The former professional kickboxer is training for his second triathlon.

"I was trying to think, what can I do ... what can I do to make a change, to be competitive," Stevie said.

Then, he overheard a story about two brothers doing a race together, only one was disabled and had to be carried by his brother.

"When I heard that story, it affected me. It was profound. First thing I thought of was Corbin," Stevie said.

Corbin McKenzie is Stevie's 22-year-old family friend. He's a paraplegic who was born with cerebral palsy.

Corbin works as a popular greeter at the Wheeler Road YMCA.

"I do it to inspire my young kids. I actually coach a baseball team here at The Y and I do it for them so that they can one day see that being disabled is not that bad," he told News 12. "Every day I make a decision to out and get in the chair and make a difference."

"He's an awesome kid, I mean he's one of kind ... I mean, I can't say it enough," Stevie said.

And he decided to bring Corbin along, so he started training.

"That's been about three months ago and ever since I've been doing this and running and biking," Stevie said.

They're calling it The Freedom Experience, and a local company is chronicling their progress on YouTube.

Last month Stevie finished his first triathlon at Clarks Hill and surprised Corbin with the news.

"He didn't know what I was doing, but he knew I was swimming, he knew I was biking and he knew I was running, but he didn't know it was about him. When I got finished I told him, 'Hey Corbin, this is about you,'" he said.

The two share a bond much stronger than many family trees.

"We aren't blood, but we sure do act like it. I love him and he loves me. I never really had a father growing up so Stevie kind of stepped in there and has been the most awesome father figure that anybody could ever ask for," Corbin said.

And this journey is proving to be an emotional one for both Stevie and Corbin.

"I cried, and for a man to cry, it takes a lot, but we both cried," Corbin said.

"In the mornings when I swim, it's emotional. When I run, it's emotional. When I bike, it's emotional because I'm thinking about the reason I'm doing it," Stevie said.

And that reason is to see to Corbin light up and get the freedom to do something his body won't let him do alone.

"I'm giving him the opportunity to experience it, but he's giving me the opportunity to spend time with him. He's called me dad for years, he's my boy," Stevie said.

"I love you dad, and I want to thank you for giving me this tremendous opportunity," Corbin told Stevie.

They're still in the training phase here. Stevie has to be able to do so many triathlons on his own before he can bring Corbin along for the ride. Of course, we will be keeping up with the progress.

Corbin will probably be pulled in a raft during the swim, pulled in a chair for the bike and then likely pushed in that chair for the run.

MedEx Associates is the company sponsoring them, but they're going to need some help. You can find more information here.

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