Dillon Connolly

"After my injury and before going back to school, I felt like my life was wasted because I'd lost so much. What helped me cope mentally was I was able to help a bunch of people with the same struggles, then my injury wasn't a waste of life, it was the start of a new one--focused on helping others that I now knew needed my help. Through the SWM scholarship, and the entrepreneurship master's program, I was able to jumpstart my new mission in life--help as many wheelchair users live happier healthier lives. Because of this program, I feel so prepared to take on launching a business and navigate the entrepreneurship world, and also I now have a ridiculous supply of resources and connections to help me along the way. Knowing how difficult it is firsthand, I don't think I would've ever gotten anything off of the ground without it.

Dillon exemplified the words student-athlete at USC where he was an All American swimmer team record holder and Olympic Trials qualifier in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and team captain, as he pursued a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering, graduating in 2011. Post grad he continued to stay active and in shape while living in Newport Beach and working as a design engineer at an aerospace company in Irvine. One day, simply diving into a wave in Newport, Dillon hit a sand bar and broke his neck at the C4-C5 level. His friends and family were shocked that this could happen to this elite swimmer while in his element. As Dillon was in the hospital his friends and family surrounded him with love and support and Ron Orr let him know that the Swim With Mike Family was here for him when he was ready. Four years later Dillon was ready to pursue his Masters in Entrepreneurship (MSEI) and combine this with both his Industrial Engineering and product-design experience to start and run a company that makes products for the disabled community.

He is the founder of Zuk Fitness and finished his master's program at USC in December 2023.