BLACKSTONE, Mass. (WPRI) — Bradley Gignac has come a long way in the last 16 years.
In 2003, at just three and a half years old, Gignac was paralyzed in a boating accident on Echo Lake in Burrillville. He and his dad Kevin were riding a jet ski when it collided with a boat. Kevin was killed instantly.
Years later, Gignac still deals with the effects of that accident every day. He was left paralyzed, blind in his left eye and reliant on a wheelchair.
But one thing he didn’t lose in the accident was his perseverance.
On Friday, with the help of a standing wheelchair, Gignac took a big step forward.
In front of all his classmates, he walked across the stage to receive his diploma from Blackstone-Millville Regional High School.
“I’m so proud of him,” Bradley’s grandmother Celeste Gignac said.
Celeste said after the accident, Bradley made it his mission to walk again — undergoing countless surgeries and putting in hours of physical therapy.
At the start of this school year, Celeste said Bradley decided he wanted to be able to walk at graduation in honor of his dad, who wouldn’t be able to be there with him.
“He said, ‘I miss my dad. I’m walking for him. I know he’s watching over me,'” Celeste said.
On Friday night, Bradley rose from his wheelchair and walked across the stage to a standing ovation from his peers.
“To see his classmates cheer him on was so heartwarming,” she said. “Every parent, or grandparent, wants their child, or grandchild, to be included. For him to be accepted among his peers, that was emotional.”
Celeste said she isn’t sure what the future holds for her grandson, but she said she believes the sky is the limit for Bradley.