Former high school football star Dan Edwards says he can never fully repay the debt of gratitude he feels for the support he received from Sarnians after suffering a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed.
But the 25-year old hopes that hitting the motivational speaking circuit to share his message of optimism and perseverance with area students is one way he can help the community that never left him behind.
“I want to let (the students) know that there are people who care for them,” he said.
Edwards said he started giving speeches at local schools after sensing a problem with depression and helplessness among young people.
The irrepressibly optimistic Edwards, who relies on a wheelchair to get around, talks to kids in relatable terms about how they ultimately make their own decision to be happy.
Referencing his own injury – sustained in a lighthearted wrestling match with friend Zach Androschuk – the recent Lambton College graduate said that while he couldn’t control the debilitating side effects he made the decision to move on with his life.
“I took what happened to me and used my family, my friends and my faith to just progress forward,” he said.
“I want to be able to share with kids a story, and give them the opportunity to see that things can be better, things will be better.”
The former St. Christopher football ace said he’s thankful for the many blessings in his life, including a loving girlfriend and the friendship he maintains with Androschuk – who is studying at Western University to become a doctor after the incident sparked an interest in spinal cord injuries.
The accident left him a paraplegic at the age of 18, but he has regained some mobility through years of rehabilitation. Edwards says recently acquiring a driver’s licence to operate a specially outfitted van and that has given him a greater sense of independence.
“That independence is key. I got to be able to get up and do things on my own,” he added.
Edwards singled out Denise Kohlmeier, Krystal Butler and Dave Brown for greatly assisting him over the years.
He was scheduled to speak at Lambton College on Dec. 3 as part of local events marking the International Day of People with Disabilities.