Five years after a car crash left Denny Ross without feeling below his chest, he participated in a five-kilometre race in support of neuroscience education and research development (N.E.R.D) Saturday morning.

“I was shattered by it. You take something like walking for granted every time you get out of bed and put your socks on in the morning. So to have something like that ripped away from you is not just physically, but emotionally devastating,” Ross told CTV News.

With the help of a revoluntionary robotic exoskeleton named ReWalk, the normally wheelchair bound Ross stood tall as he took part in the third annual N.E.R.D Run in Hawrelak Park.

“It was something that I never thought would happen to me again…and then it was given back to me,” he said.

Since joining a University of Alberta pilot study in 2014, Ross has gone from taking baby steps in his so-called “robot suit”, that provides powered hip and knee motion, to walking more than a kilometre at a time.

However, a half-hour into his journey on Saturday, the path proved more difficult than the halls at the university.

“It’s like riding a bike on glass versus a mountainside,” he explained. “My feet kept rubbing together which was stalling me out.”

While Ross had to use his wheelchair to finish the race, he wasn’t disappointed – instead filled with hope that the ReWalk would soon help others cross their own finish line.

“Just makes me want to continue to be involved and continue to push the envelope,” he said.

“It’s important to be out and seen so that people can understand what is being done by U of A researchers, what the money being raised is going towards and how much it is helping people like me.”

Money raised from the event, hosted annually by the U of A’s Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (NMHI), goes toward supporting student researchers at the institute.

With files from Breanna Karstens-Smith