On June 9, 2008, Victor Muniz’s life changed forever.
As he was walking home through West Hudson Park, a fierce rain storm and lightning bolt brought down a huge branch from a tree, landing directly on Victor, permanently paralyzing him.
After rigorous rehabilitation, including a five-month stay at the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation in West Orange, Muniz worked hard on getting some semblance of his life back.
“When I got there, I was practically a vegetable,” said Muniz, the former Kearny High School basketball standout who is now 29. “I couldn’t move at all. I couldn’t grip anything at all, but now I can write. I can use my hands.”
Muniz has been attending Bergen County Community College in pursuit of a degree in hospitality management, a degree he expects to receive next month.
But through all of his trials and tribulations in getting that degree, he’s had to rely on others to give him a ride to and from school.
“Sometimes, I have some trouble getting transportation,” Muniz said.
Muniz does not have the ability to afford a wheelchair accessible van, which runs in excess of $50,000.
Last year, Muniz was doing research and found a contest that provides a specialized van to a worthy recipient among what are called Local Heroes in honor of Mobility Awareness Month.
“Last year, I signed up, but I did it too late,” Muniz said. “I needed to get a full campaign.”
So that campaign began last Friday and runs through the entire month of May.
Muniz has designed a flier that has been distributed throughout the area, but The Observer readers can aid in the campaign.
Here’s what you have to do: 1. Visit NMEDA Website: http://www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com
2. Click on “Local Heroes” at the Top of the Screen
3. Search for Victor Muniz
4. Submit Vote
You can vote only once a day, but you can vote every single day. Also, every day, a new question will appear when voting and if you answer the question, then it will give Victor an extra vote.
You cannot vote from multiple e-mails, so please just vote once a day. But in typical Hudson County fashion, you can vote early and often.
Voting runs through May 31, so make sure you take the time to help our resident local hero.
Muniz said that the website sometimes takes its time to load up, so he asks voters to be patient.
“I’ve been trying to get the word out,” Muniz said. “I’ve put it up on Facebook and getting votes that way as well.”
But The Observer readers can chip in and lend a hand by simply voting for Victor.
“I need to pass the word along as much as I can,” Muniz said. Muniz is not giving up hope on someday walking again. “I’ve learned to never say never,” Muniz said. “Because unless the Big Man upstairs comes down and tells me something different, I will never say never. That’s just a just a waste of time and effort.”
Let’s see what we can do to help this young man’s cause.
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”