A Nova Scotia man who became paralyzed following an accident at a campground during the Cavendish Beach Music Festival two years ago has decided to face his challenges head on.

Connor Hirtle, 23, broke his neck while jumping into a pool at a Cavendish campground. Luckily, family and friends were able to pull him out of the water.

“We were just enjoying the weekend, enjoying the heat, enjoying being with friends, and it's just crazy how things can change so quickly,” says Hirtle’s friend, Andre LeBlanc.

Hirtle says he doesn't remember much about the hospital in Charlottetown or being airlifted to Halifax. What he does remember, though, is his determination to prove the doctor's prognosis wrong.

“The doctors told my parents, ‘Listen, things aren't great for Connor. Don't expect him to be able to move anything again other than blink his eyes and maybe be able to speak,'” Hirtle says.

Thanks to countless hours of rehabilitation, Hirtle can now move his own arms, push his own wheelchair, text and eat by himself, along with continue classes at Mount Saint Vincent University.

“You're not going to get anywhere being depressed and negative about it, so I've always been positive and I'm always hopeful to get back up on my feet someday,” says Hirtle.

And thousands of people have taken notice of his willpower. The Hope for Hirtle campaign has helped him cover the costs of rehabilitation while he urges awareness of spinal cord injuries and research.

It also brought him a new friend in country singer and fellow hockey player Chad Brownlee, who performed at Cavendish on Saturday.

“He's a fighter,” says LeBlanc. “That's what he is. Never quits. He always plans on looking forward and knowing he's going to get better and knowing he's going to get past this.”

Hirtle decided to return to the Cavendish Beach Music Festival this year. While he initially had some reservations, they were quickly put to rest as his chair was lifted above a crowd of thousands Friday night, with friends and family holding him up.

“It brings chills to you,” says Hirtle’s friend, Shaun McEachern. “I was kind of struggling to keep him up because it's not as light as you'd think it would be, but it brings chills to you seeing the lead singer of Little Big Town blowing him kisses in the crowd.”

Hirtle is considering the experience just another obstacle tackled on the road to recovery.

“It was cool. I wasn't expecting it and it was different, but it was fun. Really fun,” says Hirtle. 

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.