COCOA BEACH, Fla. – In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Shelly and Patrick Ogara didn’t let fear stop them from becoming entrepreneurs and using their success to help others in need.
In early August, they opened their beach wheelchair rental shop, Crabby’s Beach Wheels, located just off South Orlando Avenue in Cocoa Beach.
Knowing the obstacles they would face, they say it was more important to see the smiles from those who struggle daily due to their special needs.
“It’s not fair when you see people standing at the boardwalk and they can’t get onto the beach,” Patrick Ogara said. “The reward is getting people to the beach. Watching them just enjoying time with their family.”
The couple spent a year planning their business, an idea born after Patrick suffered heart failure.
“Going to the beach was impossible,” Shelly recalled. “He was only able to walk a few feet. So, like, even just getting to the parking lot to the boardwalk was a real challenge.”
After realizing there was a need in the Cocoa Beach area for more beach wheelchair rental options, they didn’t hesitate to open their own shop.
Among their clients is the Fannin family, from Georgia. They are visiting with their 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, Adi, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and gets treated at Nemours Children’s Hospital.
“Things are so different for her and we always try to normalize her life as much as possible but there are some things that you just can’t make happen for her. So the fact that this is happening is huge,” Lauren Fannin, Adi’s mother said.
Her daughter can’t walk because the disease prevents her muscles from getting strong and going to the beach is rare for their family.
“I actually remember shortly after Adi was diagnosed, watching other kids play and I started crying sitting on the beach because I knew that that would never happen for her,” Lauren said.
After contacting Shelly Ogara, the family was able to enjoy a day at the beach where little Adi was all smiles as she strolled around the beach for the first time on her own. They rented one of the beach wheelchairs designed for use on the beach.
“It takes a special person with a good heart to care about these people. You just don’t realize the lack of accessibility until you’re going through it,” Adi’s mom said.
For Shelly and Patrick, it’s those moments of joy that make their struggle worth it.
“It really hits home to my heart because those are the families we want to help. To me, the beach is healing. You gotta get on the beach and get some sun and just that tranquility,” Shelly said. “We had a young man that came in from the Orlando area and the smile on his face even just here in the shop was amazing.”
As for Adi? Her mom said her condition hasn’t defined the way she sees life -- with a smile.
“We come every four months for her to have spinal injections to treat her disease. It doesn’t phase her. She is never upset. She never gets mad,” Lauren said. “She is the happiest, strongest little girl you’ll ever meet in your life.”
Crabby’s Beach Wheels is located on 74 S. Orlando Ave. in Cocoa Beach. Beach wheelchairs, with the exception of the powered wheelchair, can be rented for $30 for two hours and $10 for every additional hour. Their powered wheelchair can be rented for $60 three hours.
For more information, visit https://www.crabbysbeachwheels.com/.