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Meet Chuck

Visit Chuck at home and you’ll probably find him playing the drums. Percussion instruments line the walls of his living room. A five-piece set rests prominently by the doorway and above it, three Turkish hand drums hang casually on the wall. When asked why he plays the drums, he responds “it’s in my blood.”

But there was a time when Chuck believed he would never play the drums again. At age 21, a car accident put Chuck into a coma-like state for six months. When he finally opened his eyes his family was there to greet him, but the condition he found himself in was beyond grim. He had experienced a brain injury as well as a spinal infarction that left him with almost zero mobility. Unsure of his recovery, Chuck was furious at everyone and everything. “I was not a happy camper,” he said. But then all at once he had a change of heart. “It was like a switch,” he says of that moment, “life works better when you appreciate people.”

Chuck spent almost a year and a half in the hospital and was bedridden at home for another year after that. But when he finally felt ready to begin physical therapy, he took to it with everything he could muster. More and more each day, Chuck began regaining partial control of his legs and arms. It took willpower and an uncountable number of hours, but six years later Chuck started playing the drums again.

Now Chuck makes regular trips down to the library to play out front. He even brings extra drums so the people passing by can stop and join in. Chuck credits The Coordinating Center with playing a huge part of getting him back out in public again, both physically and mentally. He said The Center helped him reconnect with the community he lives in, and the culture he’s a part of. “No way I’d be where I am without The Coordinating Center.”

Today, at 36 years of age, Chuck is quick to acknowledge all the support he received during his recovery. But spend five minutes with him and you can tell how sizable a role his own willpower and grit must have played. In addition to nurturing a passion for percussion, he spends much of his time in his workshop tinkering and inventing modifications to make his wheel chair more user-friendly. “We’re all made to be creative people” he says, while showing off a custom lap tray he created for his wheelchair out of aluminum and Plexiglass. Chuck wants to use his insider perspective to continue designing custom accessibility devices, and plans to go commercial as soon as possible. In May 2016, he earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science from Carrol Community College specializing in computer-aided drafting —a move he hopes will make him better prepared to see some of his proto-types to market.

In addition to graduating, Chuck achieved another goal that day that took years in the making. A few months before graduation, Chuck made a sudden and bold declaration to the Graduation Coordinator. “I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I’m walking at graduation,” he said.

It took years after the accident for Chuck to even consider trying to walk again. Assisted by a gait trainer, Chuck began slowly, sometimes only taking a few steps each physical therapy session. By the end of that first year, he logged 8 miles. Each year, he increased his mileage. On the day of commencement, each graduate was called to walk across stage and receive their diploma. Just when everyone thought the diploma distribution was complete, the announcer calls Chuck’s name. A video of the ceremony shows the audience erupt in applause as he begins walking; slowly, laboriously, but with an infectious grin. “He stands here today as a reminder that we never give up the spirit of wanting to succeed,” said the announcer.