'Roll with Cole': Mother and son team up to raise money for those impacted by spinal cord injuries

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Posted at 6:41 PM, Aug 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-29 19:00:42-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Three years ago, 12-year-old Christian Nash from Hanover County faced several devastating diagnoses that left him wheelchair-bound.

His family's current goal is to get a wheelchair-accessible van.

CBS6 shared Christian's story in July, and after it aired, one Hanover non-profit reached out wanting to help.
Roll with Cole was started by Cole and Kelly Sydnor after Cole was involved in a diving accident.

A beautiful blessing is how mom Kelly describes raising her two sons with her husband Clement in their Hanover home.

"I’m going to describe it as a utopia," she said. "They had great schools, great teachers, great friends, and it was idyllic.

Their life took a turn in August 2011 after Kelly said tragedy struck her family in a way she never imagined.

"When he dove, he hit his head on a submerged rock, and that instantly paralyzed him," she said.

Just a day after getting his driver's license, her son Cole was involved in a diving accident while hanging out with some of his friends at the James River.

"He said it looked like a scene out of jaws, instantly the water just flushed red, when he saw Cole lifeless in the water, he knew this was no joke," she described.

Cole was rushed to VCU Medical Center where he spent days in the intensive care unit, eventually being airlifted to a special rehabilitation center in Georgia for another 122 days.

"Those first hours were very bleak, and I didn't think that he was going to have this very full life," Kelly said. Soon she realized that although things were going to be different, her son could still live a life full of joy.

"What matters in life is what’s in here and in here," Kelly said, gesturing to her head and chest. "So whether you walk again or don’t you’re certainly going to fly," Kelly said she told Cole.

While Kelly and Cole were away focusing on Cole's recovery, their community was focused on making their return home as painless as possible.

"Our community rallied together, raised money, and basically rebuilt our house so it would be accessible for Cole when he returned home," she said. "We came back we had an elevator that went to all the floors of our home. We had a Hoyer lift system in the ceiling so we could lift Cole around. And created ramps and walkways."

This huge gesture uplifted their home and their hearts. "I mean spinal cord injury and trauma to the family is hard enough, but to uproot somebody because of accessibility and have them start over at a new school in a new neighborhood, with new friends is just over the top traumatizing," Kelly said.

Overwhelmed with love and support from their friends and family, Cole wanted to find a way to somehow repay the people he felt gave him so much. "He was in tears, and he said I can never give back what everyone has given to me. He said 'How can I pay them back?'" Kelly said.

"I said, you can pay it forward - you can affect lives going forward."

This was the core of 'Roll with Cole', a nonprofit Cole and his mom started to help raise money for those impacted by spinal cord injuries.

"We raise money, and we then turn it over to organizations that can really affect lives... we also collect equipment," she said.

"I just know, our family knows what it's like to be there. And what we needed, and we want to be that for other people. So, it means a lot to have this vessel to do so," said Cole.

Cole Sydnor was a recipient of a scholarship after his injury and knows how expensive things can get. "It's super, super expensive. No family really has money to make it through that on their own," he said.

Now living in California and still running the nonprofit with his mom, Cole and his wife use their growing social media platform to not only spread positivity but also inspire others.

"Being 12 years removed, and knowing where my life is now. I wish I had considered the flip end of that," Cole said.

He and his mom said they hope to see the nonprofit grow to a national level, helping as many people as they can continue to live a full and joyful life.

"I just limited myself because I wanted to do the things, I used to do you know instead of exploring new things and trying new things and engaging with new communities," Cole said. "Inclusivity and accessibility are huge in our hearts and minds and if we can collectively together to help support that effort, that means everything," said Kelly.

Kelly says the nonprofit is now collecting donations for 12-year-old Christian who is still in need of a wheelchair-accessible van.

Anyone hoping to donate can do so through the Roll with Cole nonprofit by emailing

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