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Don’t Let Your Situation Define You

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Hero’s can be defined in many ways. Sometimes the first thing that comes to mind are comic book hero’s like Superman, Iron Man, and yes even Aquaman. Then your mind may shift to real life hero’s such as firefighters and law enforcement. Teachers, coaches and athletes are considered heroes as well.

I consider a hero to be someone that has had a great influence over your life that has been overwhelmingly positive. Someone who has shifted your life direction to something better than it otherwise would be.

One of my personal hero’s is my stepfather, Vern Willey.

With a little back story I would like to share why he is a hero and how he has influenced me because of it.

Cycling is Vern’s passion – he rode whenever he got the chance.
In 1997, Vern took part in an organized bike ride called TOMRV (Tour of the Mississippi River Valley) in the Quad City area. Unfortunately, life dealt him a bad hand that day. While going down a hill he had a flat tire and was thrown over his handle bars. He was taken to the Hospital and was told he had T-7 spinal cord injury. This meant it was highly unlikely that he would walk again. Vern is someone that loves to be outside and is a “do it yourselfer.” Words cannot describe the emotional toll that it took on the family. Being the father of four kids, he was the pillar of strength in their lives.

However, Vern is not someone to just give up (I can attest to this from spending countless hours with Vern, him being a guide, trying fix things ranging from cars to floors.) He put his nose to the grindstone and fought through rehab, learning to be self reliant. None of it was easy but he kept going. In 1998, a year after his injury Vern rode on TOMRV again. He used a handcycle so he could keep doing what he loved. He didn’t let his injury define who he was. He didn’t let such a major set back ruin his life. He made the most of his situation. Was it easy? No, but he did it anyway. Vern even took on the challange of skiing again. Using a special mono ski he went to Colorado several times a year to enjoy the fresh mountain air. Living life to the fullest!

Since then Vern has done RAGBRAI every year to some capacity, whether it be the full week or just a few days. Getting in almost 3000 miles a year on his hand cycle.

Never throughout my life did I hear him complain about being disadvantaged or having self pity. He never used his limitation of being in a wheelchair as an excuse. He could have easily given up but he knew that the only way things would get better is if he worked for it.

Vern’s life and how he dealt with adversity has taught me many things. He showed me that that if you put in the work, things can get done – no matter how daunting it may seem. He also showed me that if you don’t do what you are passionate about then your not doing life right. My passion is movement and he has supported me every step of the way!

Your the only person that can define who you are. No one else

Video Story on Vern!

I hope that some of you can find some inspiration from this!

Cody