By Abby Austin
Hi WAGS! My name is Abby Austin and my fiancé, Kolton, is a T9-10 complete injury that happened when he was 16 years old (2013) in a farming accident. He was an active, hard working teenage kid who I had started dating 2 months prior to his accident, but we had been friends for a while before that. When he got hurt his whole life was turned upside down. He had planned to take over farming for his dad and pursue agriculture as a passion and career. As many of you may notice in your own significant others these accidents can have an overwhelming effect on confidence and purpose.
Luckily for all those around him, Kolton handled his injury with more positivity and strength than I could ever imagine. There were hard times, of course, but he made it easy on 15-year-old me, who was attempting to process that her boyfriend was given very small odds to ever walk again. Even with the positive attitude and drive to move forward there was still something missing for Kolt after his injury, and in July of 2017 he began playing adaptive sports through a friend we had that was already involved with the team.
I will never forget getting a random text that said, “hey do you wanna go to Chicago in two weeks to watch me play wheelchair softball?” My first question was how does one even play softball in a wheelchair? I was soon to find out that it can be done, and it is incredibly fun to watch. I watched his frustration unravel into joy as he learned the ins and outs of the game, and suddenly he was also playing basketball through the same friend who introduced him to softball, Matt. Matt works for Midwest Adaptive Sports as the basketball program director. Midwest Adaptive is a nonprofit whose goal is to positively impact the lives of individuals with physical, cognitive, emotional, or behavioral challenges through adaptive recreational and competitive sports.
While both sports are fun to watch I enjoy watching Kolt play basketball, because he has worked so hard to get better and I can tell when watching him that he loves what he is doing. Not only that, but we have made some of the greatest connections through it. I now have multiple WAGS friends that I feel connected to because they have an understanding of what these relationships can entail. We now spend a ton of our weekends traveling around the United State for different tournaments. During these weekends we get to hang out with the friends we have made and see parts of the country we wouldn’t get to without it. It can be hard on the weekends I cannot go with him, because time apart is not fun, but it is worth it seeing the way he has gained confidence and a love for being active. He also gets to share this love with the youth teams he coaches in Kansas City too. While he loves playing himself, there’s a light in his eyes when he is at practice with these kids that makes me so happy. I know that as a coach he is a positive role model for these kids, and that is making a lasting impression.
We also discovered through our friend Matt that skiing is still a vacation option for us. We borrowed a sit ski for Kolton to use and headed to Winter Park in Colorado. We met some other friends down there and Kolt was able to learn from them throughout our few days of skiing. It was frustrating for both of us at first (skiing is not easy even with the use of your legs), but by the third day we were both having a blast, and have another ski trip planned in a few months.
If you don’t think sports are for you or your significant other that is totally fine, but I would 100% suggest keeping an eye out for adaptive sport tournaments in your area and going to watch. You never know who you might meet and gain connections with. While Kolt just plays basketball, softball, and skis there are tons of other options out there for adaptive sports including tennis, lacrosse, rugby, football, curling, power soccer, water skiing, and even more. Being able to find ways to be active has made for many new adventures and travels in my relationship and I could not be more grateful that we found people to get Kolton connected to sports after his injury. - Abby