Bid to give paralysed Jake powered wheels

Jake Pengelly and his partner Holly Hill. Ref shs 2416-28-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Jake Pengelly and his partner Holly Hill. Ref shs 2416-28-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A promising builder is unlikely to ever walk again after a split-second accident – but his family and friends are rallying together to help him regain some independence.

Jake Pengelly with the six cyclists fundraising for power-assisted wheels for his wheelchair

Jake Pengelly with the six cyclists fundraising for power-assisted wheels for his wheelchair - Credit: Archant

Jake Pengelly’s life changed in an instant when the front flip he had performed many times before went terribly wrong one evening in February - leaving him quadriplegic.

Desperate to help him regain his independence, six inexperienced cyclists have this week launched a £5,000 fundraising appeal for power-assisted wheels for the 28-year-old’s wheelchair.

Jake’s stepdad and five of his friends are planning to ride 500 miles in five days from his Sidmouth local, The Marine, to the marina in Amsterdam, where they had been planning a lads’ holiday before the accident. The ride starts on September 6.

“I was a bit wary at first,” said the former Sidmouth College student. “I’m not the sort of person who likes things handed to me, but I appreciate what they’re doing. It’s a massive thing and nice to have mates who would do that.”

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The well-known builder suffered a “horrific” break to the C5 vertebrae in his neck when his party trick went wrong. There was catastrophic damage to his spinal cord, meaning he has no sensation or movement in his hands or legs.

His girlfriend of two years, Holly Hill, was the only other person in their Amyatts Terrace house at the time.

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After a few successful flips, he told her “look at this” and jumped – but caught his feet on the ceiling mid-rotation and crumbled to the ground.

It was immediately clear something was wrong – he couldn’t feel his legs.

Holly’s instincts took over and she held him down to stop him moving, supporting his head and calling for an ambulance. It arrived before she had hung up the phone.

Jake was in a coma for the next two weeks. Holly gradually started to come to terms with the fact that life for them had changed forever.

“He’s been independent since he was 14 or 15,” she said. “He was always either working or in the pub. He rarely sat down and did nothing.

“Realistically, he is never going to walk again. We know that and we’ve dealt with that.

“If he can use a manual chair with powered wheels even for two years before going into an electric one, that’s two years of independence he wouldn’t have had.”

Jake is currently in rehab in Exeter and is reliant on others to eat, drink and move around, but power-assisted wheels would help him travel further on his own.

His stepdad and former boss, Laurence Graves, and friends Brendon Agar, Chris Small, Craig FitzHenry, George Powell and George Fallows all want to help him regain his independence.

They also hope to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries.

Power-assisted wheels are the first thing on Jake’s wish list, but if the appeal proves successful, he has his sights set on pioneering physiotherapy in the United States. Six weeks of treatment would cost £20,000 and is a longer-term goal.

Brendon, who grew up with Jake in Tipton St John, said: “He didn’t want to be seen as a charity case. He wouldn’t accept money out of our pockets, so we’re getting out there to do something.

“He was always so generous himself – Jake would be the first one sorting this out if it was one of us.”

To support the appeal, visit

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