MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Friends and family are rallying around a Mahopac High School graduate who suffered injuries that have left him paralyzed from the chest down after a tragic diving accident last month.

Kamil Sudol, 20, described by friends as man of “great courage, amazing character and a wholehearted soul,” suffered the injuries when he dove from the Little Bridge in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on Aug. 3 while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard with his girlfriend, Taylor Moreau, and her family.

A Class of 2017 grad, Sudol was a star athlete at Mahopac High School, where he excelled at both football and lacrosse.

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Moreau has set up a GoFundMe page to help the Sudol family pay for medical bills, physical therapy and rehab. With a goal of $750,000, the fund drive had already reached more than $165,000 as of last Friday. But more help is needed.

Sudol had dreams of one day becoming a police officer and studied criminal justice at Mount Saint Mary College (Newburgh), which is where he met Moreau. A strapping athlete at 6 feet 2 inches and over 200 pounds, he had continued playing lacrosse while at college.

Moreau, who was with Sudol at the time of accident, told Mahopac News that the young man got confused and dove from the wrong bridge, not the one he had used last year without incident.

“His head hit the bottom,” Moreau said. “We knew he was really hurt. He was bleeding. He’s a big guy, very athletic. But he was underwater, not moving for like 10 seconds.”

Airlifted first to a local hospital, Sudol was later flown to Massachusetts General where he went straight into surgery for nearly eight hours. He had broken the C6 vertebrae and had a lesion on his spinal cord and was paralyzed from the chest down.

“When he woke up after surgery, one of the first things he said was, ‘I had the wrong bridge,’” Moreau recalled. “Two kids who dove in before him said they had felt the bottom, but he didn’t hear them.”

Dennis Dowd has been one of Sodul’s best friends since high school. He played lacrosse with him at MHS and the friends continued to play the sport together at Mount Saint Mary.

“He loved to work out and loved to be outdoors,” Dowd said. “He liked to go on hikes and was into fly-fishing—anything that has to do with outdoors is right up his alley.”

Dowd said Sodul’s tight circle of friends found out about the accident via group text sent to them by Moreau. They were all stunned by what it said.

“Taylor put us in a group chat and broke the news,” he said. “I was literally frozen. I couldn’t move. I kept reading it and hoping it wasn’t real. You never think something like this is going happen to someone you know until it does.”

Mark Carey, another close friend, had a similar reaction to the news.

“I read through [the text] like seven or eight times hoping the words would change, but this is the card we were dealt,” said Carey, who attends college at Virginia Tech. “So, your mind goes to, what can I do to help? It felt like it was the wrong person for it to happen to. He is so kind and caring, always putting other people ahead of himself.”

Being a strong, athletic guy, Sodul was attracted to outdoor activities, so while the tragedy of his injuries shocked those who knew him, they were not surprised by how it happened.

“Growing up, we were roughhousing all the time, and being boys, you get the notion you’re indestructible,” Dowd said. “But you can’t take anything for granted—even things like walking.”

Carey said that Sodul’s circle of friends share his enthusiasm for the outdoors, especially fishing.

“I met him through Dennis. I got brought into the group and we kind of all clicked and we became best friends,” Carey said. “We both enjoyed the outdoors, and we went fishing about three times a week. We bought a fishing boat together and went out on Lake Mahopac and Kirk Lake, and we did a lot of trout fishing around the area, too. We did pretty much everything together—hanging out watching TV on a Friday night.”

Dowd said the friends got together after the accident to console each other and try to make sense of it all.

“We got together after we got the news and talked and realized we have to focus on the positive,” Dowd said. “So many things went right, and we still have him. It could have easily been worse and I’m extremely thankful for everyone who helped him out. Taylor has been amazing, doing everything she can for him. The support the community has shown, not just Mahopac, but the Mount Saint Mary community as well, has been incredible. Everyone who knew him only has positive things to say about him. He was so generous and wouldn’t harm a fly.”

Carey said Sodul always put others ahead of himself, which is why he wanted to become a cop. But, Carey notes, he could have used that empathy to become a lot of things.

“Just from his actions you could tell that’s the kind of stuff he wanted to do (helping people) but being a police officer was the most appealing,” Carey said. “But he could have been a doctor—anything helping people.”

Moreau said walking again will be a challenge for Sodul but she remains optimistic.

“He says he won’t stop until he does,” she said.

Sodul is now in the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey, where, because of COVID, he can only receive two visitors a day for up to two hours.

“So, that’s tough,” Moreau said. “But he’s in an electric wheelchair now and he can move around. He’ll be there about six to eight weeks and then returns home and they’ll do outpatient for however long.

“It is truly amazing seeing the support he has gotten,” she continued. “He is just the best guy. It is going to be at least a year of recovery time. But they are looking into other treatments, like stem cell.”

But all this will take not only a huge emotional toll on the family but also a financial one, which is why the GoFundMe page was created.

Cynthia O’Brien, the mother of one of Sodul’s friends, said that if you look at the page, you’ll notice that the donations are not from a few large donors, but rather from many, many friends who have chipped in small amounts like $10 or $20.

“Everyone wants to help however they can,” she said.

Sudol’s father, Arkadiusz Sudol, wrote on the GoFundMe page that he was overwhelmed and grateful for all the kindness and support that his son has been shown.

“Many of you may not know me or haven’t heard of me, yet are being so generous with your help, prayers, and empathy,” he wrote. “I want to take a moment to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your munificent gestures in helping us to secure Kamil’s best possible recovery in this hard time for our family. His future will be a very long journey with many challenges. Moving forward, we are hopeful for him to make a full recovery sooner rather than later. Along the way, there will be many accommodations we will have to make to ensure Kamil has the best life coming out of this. God bless your hearts!”

Those who wish to make a contribution to aid in Kamil Sodul’s recovery can go to www.gofundme.com/f/fight-for-kamil