Rich Hamill was injured in an automobile accident at age 18. Throughout his journey of living with a spinal cord injury (SCI), Rich has been steadfast in his belief that a positive attitude and healthy body are of utmost importance for people with SCIs. He founded Will2Walk in 2008 in order to make his dream of inspiring others with spinal cord injuries a reality. Today, Rich is a Senior Claim Adjuster for Nationwide Insurance Company. He and his wife, Alesha, have twin girls, Kennedy and Sydney.
“I know that we can empower those with SCIs to regain control of their lives and prepare for the cure through education and perseverance.”
G rowing up in a small town in rural Michigan, my childhood was full of activity. I showed horses, rode motorcycles, and played sports. Like most teenagers, I thought I was invincible. Until February 17, 1992—the day I went on a skiing trip with friends, hit a patch of black ice on the road, and was ejected from the vehicle. When I regained consciousness, I was told I had a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the neck down. The doctors told me that with hard work, I may regain some function, but it would be limited at best. I refused to accept this diagnosis. During physical therapy, I continually pushed myself and was able to regain strength in my upper body and some use of my hands.
In the twenty-five years since my accident, I have graduated from college, gotten married, added twin girls to the family and established a successful career. But I’ve always felt something was missing. Something bigger than myself. Something that made all of the struggle and hard work worth it. And from this, the Will2Walk Foundation was born.
My passion and belief
I seek a cure for spinal cord injury now. The need to help the 1.3 million Americans with spinal cord injuries is evident both in terms of the devastating effects on individual families and the billions of dollars in lost American productivity annually. I believe we’ve never been closer to achieving a cure than right now.
I know that we can empower those with SCIs to regain control of their lives and pursue their interests through education and perseverance.
Message to Recently Injured
If you are reading this, you or someone you love has recently sustained a spinal cord injury. Since I have experienced your pain first hand, I can assure you that there are only two options for people with spinal cord injuries: quit or fight.
After surviving a major trauma like a spinal cord injury, you will be barraged with a host of daunting issues and events. Without the proper mindset, the feeling of defeat can overwhelm you.
If you don’t feel like fighting yet, don’t become disheartened. You can learn this mindset over time. Obviously the level of injury does make a difference when it comes to how much you can regain. This is why you have to fight the individual battle for your own success.
SET SMALL GOALS
First, let me suggest that you have to be as realistic as possible and learn to set small goals to attain larger ones. I remember when I was first injured, I said I would be walking out of the hospital in six weeks. Reality hit me hard when two weeks later I realized what I needed to do first was learn to move one arm or maybe feed myself. The more small goals you attain, the faster your mindset changes to the fight mode.
Second, keep in mind that you will need to maintain the fighting mindset as you live with a spinal cord injury. Keep setting goals! The doctors say that when you are injured, it may be two or three years before you know what you will regain, I promise you that is not true! I have honestly regained more function the last 12 years than I did the first five. It is all about a consistent effort to challenge yourself to accomplish new physical and mental goals.
POSITIVE CHANGE CAN HAPPEN
Third, there will be many times throughout physical therapy that you fail to accomplish your goal or feel defeated and want to quit, but that’s what tomorrow is for: to get up and fight again. If you do tackle your goals day after day, you will eventually see a very aggressive positive change.
If you have any questions please contact me personally, I am always available for questions or if you just want to talk about your injury. Also, for additional information regarding activities that are out there for individuals that have spinal cord injuries please check out our resources.
The only person that can tell you that you can’t succeed is you…and you don’t have to listen!