Jesse Billauer always has at least a minute for everyone. Surrounded by volunteers, guests, fans, and the media, Jesse calmly addressed each person in turn, giving each one his full unwavering attention, smiling, nodding, and laying on the now famous Jesse charm.
Those who know him personally often speak of his ability to touch people deeply in just an instant, and the truth of those words rang clear at the Gotham Theater in Santa Monica on Sunday July 25th. The First Annual Life Rolls On “Night by the Ocean” was an opportunity for people who have drawn strength and inspiration from Jesse Billauer to give something back. A red carpet fundraiser, it was an evening of music, food, drinks, auctions, and fun. But most importantly it was a venue that allowed the Life Rolls On Foundation to promote awareness about spinal cord injury research and, as Jesse put it, “raise some funds to help over 25,000 people across the country walk again.”
As most know, Jesse suffered a C-6 level spinal cord injury while surfing, leaving him with no sensation or movement below his mid chest, and only limited use of his arms and hands. Jesse, who at the time was a 17 year old up and coming pro surfer, took this twist of fate with such an incredible amount of maturity and grace, that those around him were, and continue to be, amazed by the strength of his spirit. Drawing on this awe inspiring positive outlook and using contacts within the surf community, Jesse created The Life Rolls On Foundation. The foundations approach utilizes action sports, and action sports athletes as a way of promoting awareness about spinal cord injuries and spinal cord injury research in an effort to improve the lives of everyone who has been affected by them.
The “Night by the Ocean” was a major milestone for the organization as it marked the beginning of a yearly event that will play a key role in helping to achieve these goals. It was clear from the turnout that the work put into making the evening a reality was not done in vain, as guests, action sports athletes, and Hollywood stars turned out in droves to lend their support. For most, non-attendance was not even an option, and the evening’s master of ceremonies, Sal Masakela, summed up this sentiment eloquently as he made his way upstairs from the red carpet. “When Jesse makes the call everybody does whatever they can to drop what they’re doing and rally around him. I think that Jesse’s dedication to the spirit of life in general, and spinal cord injury research specifically, is an inspiration to all of us.”