Archive: October, 2011

Corey Reed (BK and Visually Impaired)

When one door closes, another one opens. That’s the way 28-year-old Corey Reed looks at life.  It’s a choice he made after the horrific accident that robbed him of his sight and right leg. He walked through that open door to an uncertain future with faith and a positive outlook.  “Live by faith, not by sight,” is his personal motto.

Growing up in southern California, Corey loved the outdoors and playing sports. He played baseball and water polo during high school, and was an avid snowboarder. A talented athlete, many admired and envied his ability to skateboard, surf and snowboard with ease. Corey also enjoyed the thrill of driving – whether it was dirt bikes or cars.  “I had a need for speed,” he remembers. After graduating in 2001, Corey attended Moorpark College and worked for his dad, a roofing contractor.

At the time of his accident in 2005, Corey had just started an audio/video business with his friend, “T.”  On December 16th of that year, after finishing a job, Corey and T went to a club in Agoura Hills. “At that point in my life I was young and crazy and got into the partying scene,” he remembers.

“I don’t remember much about the accident, but alcohol was definitely involved,” says Corey.  “T floored it at an intersection and hit speeds of almost 100 miles per hour.” The car hit some train tracks and veered off the road, slamming the passenger side of the Chevy Tahoe against a tree. The SUV rolled over twice before coming to a stop.

T wasn’t seriously injured, but Corey was not so lucky. He suffered severe injuries to his face, jaw and hand, broke his ribs and shoulder, ruptured his spleen and was bleeding internally. A serious head trauma left Corey blind. His leg became badly infected, necessitating a below the knee amputation.

After awakening from a month-long coma during which he had no idea of the extent of his injuries, Corey immediately felt that his leg was missing. “I remember just trying to grab it and my dad wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘We’re in this together,’ And I just started crying.”

Although his body quickly healed, Corey had difficulty getting used to his prosthetic leg and accepting his blindness. His whole concept of himself and his life had changed and he didn’t know how to handle it.

Fortunately, he was put in touch with Extreme Mobility Camps, a nonprofit Christian ministry, which hosted a weeklong camp at Winter Park, CO. The camp, which provides recreation and fellowship for people with physical and visual disabilities, was a lifesaver for Corey.  People come from all over the country to ski and snowboard there. Corey had his first glimmer of hope that he’d be able to participate in the sport of snowboarding once again. He also met his girlfriend, Kayla – blind since age 4 – at the camp.

Once an avid snowboarder, Corey struggled for the first year. He wasn’t able to board as well as he once did, but was stubborn and at that time refused to accept much assistance. He became very frustrated when he continuously wiped out and heard all the others tearing past him on the mountain. At one point he broke down and cried.

When he returned to the camp in 2009, the love and encouragement he felt from people who understood him left Corey feeling inspired to do more. He was ready to accept that he needed to do it differently. He and his guide used a pole which they held at opposite ends and the guide maneuvered it to signal Corey as they negotiated down the slopes. Once again was able to shred with his “boys” with speed and skill. When he returned home he began to go to church, and his faith in the Lord provided him with even more strength and the realization that faith could heal.

Now Corey is a counselor at the camp, introducing others to action sports and giving them inspiration and hope. No longer does he say “when I get my sight back.”  “Because he can board now and all these doors are opening because of his blindness, it’s a litter easier for him to accept,” explains his girlfriend, Kayla.

Another door opened for him earlier this year, when a coach for the NSCD boardercross team invited him to compete internationally. Together they developed a headset guiding system through which a teammate gave him instructions as he rode down the course solo. They trained together for two weeks and the system worked great. “It’s all about trust,” explains Corey. His first event was to be the World Snowboard Federation Para-Snowboard World Cups in Alberta, Canada, but he was unable to secure the necessary funding to compete.

So with the door to snowboarding competition closed for the time being, a now confident and fearless Corey has discovered a passion for wake boarding. “It’s something I can totally do on my own, by feel, without a spotter,” he explains. He was able to get up on the first attempt! After securing his prosthetic leg in the bindings, Corey jumped into the water, lined himself up with the boat and said “hit it!” As he rose up onto the water he felt transformed. Grinning from ear to ear, Corey realized that was a defining moment in his life. He is now looking for opportunities to compete in the sport of wake boarding, but has found there are not many organizations which sponsor disabled wake boarding competitions.

We met Corey earlier this year, when a friend referred him to SCP.  “I was looking for a prosthetic leg that would feel more a part of me and perform well on and off the slopes,” explains Corey. “I feel fortunate that I was able to find a prosthetist who can understand my needs and give me the tools to do the things I want.”

Recently fit with a state of the art prosthetic limb, Corey is eager to begin the next phase of his life – paying it forward by getting involved in public speaking events. He feels especially led to share his testimony with young people, not only to warn them about the dangers of a “crazy” lifestyle, but to show them that faith and spirit can overcome even the most difficult challenges.

“I don’t know where this all is going to go,” says Corey. “It will be interesting to see where God leads me.”

We see many open doors in Corey’s future!

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A Day Among Giants, San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC), 10/23/2011

Every once in a while you are blessed with a special day when you experience something so moving, inspiring and powerful that it takes your breath away. Such was the case when I attended the San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) fundraiser event in La Jolla, California this past weekend. So, you might be wondering, who are these giants I speak of?

Since Bill Walton was in attendance at many of the events, and certainly the tallest among us, you might think I am speaking about him, but I’m not. There were lots of donors with giant wallets and volunteers with giant hearts, but I’m not talking about them either. The giants I am referring to are the 200+ challenged athletes participating in the event – every single one of them. People with giant hope, determination, and incredible strength of body and character.

As someone who has lived most of my life as an amputee, I am very aware of the huge effort these athletes must put forth and obstacles they must overcome. They train long and hard, through pain, physical setbacks and challenges, to accomplish something most able bodied people can’t even imagine themselves doing – competing in a triathlon!

Although I am fortunate enough to have good health and work at a state-of-the-art prosthetic facility, I have never had the ambition to even attempt to accomplish such a feat. To be honest, lately I have to push myself to lift a few weights or take a spin on my bike. The times I have been tempted to step up my fitness routine I come up with excuses like “I don’t have enough time,” or “I’m getting to0 old.”

So there I was, perched above the La Jolla cove waiting for the ocean swim part of the SDTC to begin, totally unprepared for the emotional ride I was about to take. From the moment the first group of swimmers came forward my eyes were riveted to the scene unfolding in front of me. I watched in awe and amazement as one after another, amputees and other disabled people of all ages and levels of ability – some blind, most missing limbs (many two or more) climbed, hopped and rolled or were carried into the bone-chilling Pacific Ocean for a 1-mile swim! Then I watched again as they emerged from that water the same way they went in, dried off, reattached body parts, and went on to complete the rest of the competition! Every event I witnessed blew me away. Our own Mei Mei White (just 7 years old and an above knee amputee) rode her hand cycle for 10 miles on a difficult course set up for adults! Two-year-old Cody proudly put his “bendy knee” to the test as he ran with his mom in the Kids Run while his family, clad in bright yellow “Team Cody” shirts, cheered him on. Chris Self, who became a below knee amputee as a result of  injuries suffered while defending our country, completed the Tri just days after riding a bike 620 miles down the California coast! Although I don’t see myself performing at the level of these warriors, I know I can and should do more, and they have motivated me to make the effort.

So today I am sending a giant shout out and thank you to Scout, Mei Mei, Chris, Cody and Andy (superstar participants from our own POA/SCP family) and all the other amazing athletes I was honored to be among last weekend. The pride and passion you possess and instill in others is very powerful and humbling. You can be sure there will be no more excuses for this woman!


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