THIBODAUX- Fraternity members of Kappa Sigma at Nicholls State University have decided to put all those Mardi Gras beads to good use.
For the second straight year, members of Kappa Sigma sold all the beads they caught back to people in the community who are looking to ride in the next Mardi Gras and donated the money to the American Cancer Society.
This year they raised over $3,000.
Due to the success of the fundraiser, Kappa Sigma will continue to catch for a cure.
After a freak injury, Myron Wright
is determined to walk again
THIBODAUX, La. -- Myron Wright bears little resemblance to Lance Armstrong as he pedals away on his RT-300 FES bike. The setting -- his family's laundry room -- is thousands of miles from the undulating terrain of the French Alps and the Tour de France. But the 22-year-old quadriplegic has become a cycling stalwart since purchasing the specialized rehabilitation apparatus. The bike operates on its own engine and partially forces Wright's arms and legs forward, increasing blood circulation and reducing muscle atrophy.
In many ways it's an instrument of hope, a source of inspiration that Wright has clung to since sustaining a freak spinal chord injury in a high school football game for Thibodaux High more than six years ago.
"I love riding this thing," says Wright, slowly rotating his calves. "It returns my movement. I average 14 miles a day on the legs and two-and-half miles a day on the arms."
Rather than languish in a wheelchair, Wright chooses to spend long and grueling hours in his makeshift workout facility, which sits near an old washing machine, dryer and water heater. His equipment includes a Total Gym for squat exercises and a padded table to stretch and rotate his limbs. He grits his teeth and visualizes a brighter future, one that involves putting on his own clothes, taking a shower by himself and returning hugs to members of his family -- one of the things he misses most. "To be honest, I've never really had a breakdown or questioned why my accident happened to me," Wright says. "I have gotten frustrated plenty of times, but never overly depressed about my situation. Things happen for a reason, and I have never even once thought about giving up."
Nor has his community. While searching Google in May 2007 from his voice-activated laptop, Wright came across the Web site of Project Walk, a renowned treatment program in Carlsbad (Calif.) that specializes in rehabilitating people with spinal chord injuries. With the support of his family, which extends well over 50 people, and the philanthropic contributions of friends and strangers, Wright raised the funds needed to spend six months at the clinic at the end of 2008.
He returned to Thibodaux last November feeling renewed and reinvigorated. "I actually did a squat at a 45-degree angle out there," Wright says. "I was shocked and emotional, but I didn't show it. I couldn't move for more than five years, but then I finally did again. I knew then that it was attainable. Now I can finally see it."
He is determined to walk again, but that vision wasn't always as clear.
Wright entered his sophomore season at Thibodaux High with a steadiness beyond his 16 years. At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, he was heralded as the future of the Tigers football program. Despite being an underclassman, Wright was talented enough to see varsity action at wide receiver.
"We had some good players, but Myron was going to be one of those great athletes that came through our program," says former Thibodaux football coach Shawn Preston. "He could jump, catch and run really fast, and he had the attitude to go with it. You have to have all of those skills and a little swagger to go over the top, and Myron had all of those things."
On the night of Nov. 8, 2002, Wright expected to watch an entire game from the sideline. Even though his team faced H.L. Bourgeois in an important matchup that had playoff implications, Wright had amassed three tardy slips earlier in the week and Preston planned to punish him by sitting him out.
The plan changed when the Tigers lined up for a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown early in the third quarter. Trailing 7-6, Preston wanted a player to come out for the next play and scrambled to find a replacement. Amidst the confusion, Preston spotted Wright and sent him onto the field.
The next sequence has been replayed in Wright's mind as if it was shown on a continuous loop. The ball is snapped, handed off and fumbled. Wright puts himself into position to block an opposing defender attempting to pounce on the football. He is then pushed from behind with his head down into an oncoming player, creating a collision that appears awkward but relatively innocuous.
Wright lies on the field. He's confused. Afraid. Motionless.
"In reality, it wasn't too hard of a hit," he says. "It's not like I blacked out or anything. I just fell down and couldn't move. It felt like my legs were pointed up in the air and I was floating a little bit."
Wright was taken to Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, where he underwent surgery to replace fractured vertebrae. He was transferred to Touro Infirmary in New Orleans and underwent three months of intensive rehabilitation. He eventually regained movement in his shoulders, but his arms and legs remained immobile. Through it all he maintained full sensation, something that doctors consider a medical anomaly. "It's a strange feeling, being able to feel your arms and legs but not being able to move them," he says.
Wright returned home in a wheelchair operated and steered by a leather headrest. He went back to high school and embarked on a new life beset with challenges and hardships. Football had been Wright's salvation, a potential ticket to college and an affordable education. He hoped it might one day lead him to the NFL. Now Wright was forced to focus solely on school and the prospect of spending the rest of his life with limited movement.
He was besieged with questions from his classmates. They wanted to know when he was going to stand up again, but Wright didn't know how to respond. "A lot of us thought he would be okay when it first happened," says 25-year-old Traig Wagner, a close friend and ex-teammate of Wright. "We cried thinking about what took place that night."
Preston has reminisced about it often. "You always second-guess yourself and question what would have happened if you had not sent him into the game," he says. "But if you have any faith in God, you realize that things happen for a reason sometimes and you can't avoid them."
It wasn't long before Wright began to experience reoccurring dreams about walking. In each one, he visualizes moving around without the aid of a nurse or a wheelchair. He awakens and tries to get out of bed.
Then reality sets in.
"The dreams actually make me feel good sometimes," Wright says. "They make me feel like I'm capable of actually doing it one day."
Wright originally believed he could do the rehabilitation on his own. It was the athlete in him talking. He returned from the hospital with the goal of walking across the auditorium stage to receive his high school diploma. But two years passed and he remained completely immobile.
Wright recalibrated. He enrolled at Nicholls State University in 2005 and reset his goals. Now he wanted to graduate from college and walk away with a business management degree. The attitude was there, but he needed an extra boost. Life in a wheelchair had taken its toll.
"Nobody was telling me anything and the doctors didn't really know about my chances of walking again, so I started looking on the Internet for an answer," he says.
Wright found it at the Web site for Project Walk.
"A lot of therapists want paralyzed people to accept their condition," Wright says. "They're trying to accomplish the goal of getting you to adapt to your condition, but a person like me is trying to accomplish the goal of walking. Being a hard-working kind of person who believes that anything is possible, I knew it's better to work with someone that is trying to accomplish the same goal as you are, and that's the way it is at Project Walk. I read testimonials from clients, and every one of them said it was the place to be."
Wright contacted his cousin, Glenda Johnson, a production clerk at the Thibodaux Daily Comet, to see if she could help him publicize his plan to attend the clinic (which costs $1,800 per week). She immediately passed the idea to a staff reporter. "Myron has always been striving to walk again since his accident and never let it get him down," Johnson says. "By working at the newspaper, I thought I could help him get his story out."
The article ran on a Friday. Less than 24 hours later, Brian Williams, a local bar owner, called Wright and set up a charity dinner-dance to help him raise funds. The dinner netted $2,600. In an effort to raise more awareness, Wright teamed up with his friend Wagner to create a short documentary chronicling his life in a wheelchair and plans to one day walk again. The DVDs were sent to local businesses to raise more money.
When word spread about Wright's fight, he became the beneficiary of 10 charity fundraisers over the next eight months. They included a Halloween party and walk-a-thon, banquets and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament hosted by the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Nicholls State. His parents, Deon and Beverly, created The Myron Wright Foundation. By April 2008 Wright had amassed $56,000, a sum good enough to cover half a year at Project Walk.