When Jerry Alcorn walks up and greets you, the first thing you notice about him might be his tattoos or his big welcoming smile. What you don’t see is that he has paraplegia. He has no feeling below the waist, and is what’s known as a walking paraplegic.
“I’m one of less than 2% of paraplegics that can walk,” he explains. “I completely retrained my body and mind to walk after being paralyzed.”
Alcorn was injured in 2014. While on a construction site he heard people yelling, warning him of impending danger and telling him to run. He tried, but he couldn’t get away fast enough, and a tractor fell on him.
“I felt the worst pain of my entire life,” he recalls. “I felt my spine crumple like an aluminum can.”
What you also don’t see is his outlook on life. His stop-at-nothing attitude has fueled him since his injury. In recovery, he heard a lot about what he could no longer do, and instead of being discouraged, he took it as a challenge.
“That’s how my journey has been. A series of noes. I don’t like to hear the word no,” Alcorn notes, adding that he didn’t adapt to a new life — he made life adapt to him.
The people who make Palm Springs like no place else
Alcorn’s journey after the accident started at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where he spent nine months slowly getting active again with the help of the Desert Ability Center. On one of his first cycling trips with the DAC, his bike broke down far into the East Valley. For someone used to being so self-reliant, he was suddenly stuck and couldn’t help himself.
“I thought, there must be a better way,” he says. That’s when he learned about the lack of repair shops for adaptive bikes. “These bikes are built upside down and backward; no one locally worked on these before me.”
It started small in his garage, but word traveled fast, and he officially opened for business in 2020. That business is Alcorn Adaptive Bike and Mobility Shop off Williams Road.
Alcorn has always worked with his hands, so learning to fix the bikes came naturally. “Putting things together is easy for me,” he offers. “My mind just sees how things should work and fit together.”
He stresses that the business side of things does not come easily to him.
“I’m not a business person,” says Alcorn. “But I stand behind my name and my work, and if I do good work and help people, the business will come.”
The business did come. People from across Southern California and even worldwide now ask for his help and expertise.
“There was nothing like this in the whole Inland Empire,” he says. “I used to have to go to Los Angeles to get a bike fixed.”
Looking around the shop, you see every configuration of bike possible. No two bikes are the same, just like no two disabilities are the same. Alcorn lives for the moment he finds the right fit for someone, and they come back to his shop a different person. He knows he plays a part in giving people back some of their confidence and autonomy.
“All the time people come in after an injury, they’re devastated they can’t go out fishing or camping ever again,” he says. “Yes, you can. I can show you how.”
“That’s why I’m visible in the community,” he says, “to show people what they can accomplish. There are no limits.”
Get to know Jerry below.
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Occupation: Adaptive equipment specialist, adaptive life
Neighborhood: Gene Autry Neighborhood
How long have you lived in the desert? Since 1999
What brought you here? Me and my family moved out here to be closer to our grandmother in her final years.
What keeps you here? It’s the people that keep me here. I love the people. I love what I’ve built.
Do you have family here? My wife, of course, my mother still lives here, and my sister-in-law, niece, and nephew.
What is your favorite time of the year here? You’re going to think I’m crazy, but summer’s my favorite time of year. No traffic. You can get to Indio from Palm Springs in 18 minutes.
How do you beat the heat? You just have to stay in the heat all day. I work out in the heat. I love it.
Do you have a personal philosophy by which you live? It’s at the bottom of every email I send: “Making a difference in the community one person at a time, not just for show.”
What’s your favorite place to eat? Old school me says Billy Reeds. I’ve been going there since the ’80s. John’s and Keedy’s also.
What’s the biggest issue facing our community? We have a lot of problems with homelessness, and the marijuana industry needs to settle down too. The biggest problem is we need to follow through with what we have promised. A lot of the time, projects don’t get followed through. We get sidetracked. I love our city. I think it’s doing great. The leadership is doing great.
What’s your favorite thing to do or place to go in the desert? Honestly, my favorite thing to do is ride my handcycle out toward Thermal and Coachella. Out there in the agriculture world, it’s a different style. It’s mellow, you get these ancient groves, and the workers always pop out to wave and say hello. It’s such a supportive community.
What would you tell people about Palm Springs that they might not already know? All the windmills out there when you’re coming into the city? Almost none of that power stays in the valley.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I don’t know if I have one. Eating too much chocolate, perhaps? I spend day and night taking care of people. I feel guilty taking a day off. Maybe that’s it. I feel guilty knowing there’s someone I haven’t taken care of. I’m just a part of the community I’m trying to serve. I’m trying to make it better for the next generation.
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