Once-paralyzed Chris Norton stands to finish inspirational speech
Chris Norton suffered a severe spinal cord injury in October 2010 while playing football for Luther College. With the help of his fiancee Emily Summers he stood at the end of a speech at Prairie Meadows during a fundraiser for his foundation SCI CAN.
Seven years ago, doctors gave Chris Norton only a 3 percent chance of moving below the neck again after a football injury.
So when he recently stood while delivering one of his now-famous inspirational speeches, it represented another chapter of this feel-good story. Norton wanted to step out — or "jump up," as he told the Register last week — "out of my comfort zone."
The 24-year-old shared his experience in a Facebook post on March 2 and discussed how the idea of standing scared him.
So many things could have gone wrong. He could have fallen. Or knocked over a microphone. It could have undermined his entire message.
"But the more I thought about it," Norton wrote, "the more I realized the potential impact my stand could make, which outweighed my fear."
Norton, a Bondurant-Farrar graduate, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in October 2010 while playing football for Luther College. He was given very little chance to ever walk again, but two years ago — with the help of his fiancée, Emily Summers — Norton rose from his wheelchair and walked, with assistance, across the stage to receive his college degree.
It was inspirational for many, especially the couple of thousands who saw it in person or the 650,000-plus who've watched on YouTube.
In his post, Norton talked about the hours leading up to a presentation Feb. 25 at the SCI CAN foundation's annual fundraiser at Prairie Meadows in Altoona. SCI CAN, which Norton helped found, raises money to provide equipment and support for others who have suffered spinal cord or other neurological injuries.
Norton was going over his speech notes and was practicing aloud with Summers and a friend. They pitched an idea.
"They thought it'd be cool if I stood up at the end," he said.
In his post, Norton wrote how he fired back with a firm "No!" because of those initial worries. But then he thought how it could better emphasize his message: "That we all have the power to stand" — no matter the challenging obstacles we're facing.
So that's what Norton did near the end of his speech that afternoon, in front of 420 registered event attendees. It's what he plans to do moving forward.
There Norton stood, with Summers' help, for about 1 minute, 40 seconds. He peered into a teary-eyed, applauding audience standing with him. He added that there was a definite "change of reaction" during those final moments compared to the numerous speeches he's addressed.
"The crowd, the energy — people were just in awe standing up like that," Norton said. "... You could just tell this meant that much more to them."
Chris Norton suffered a severe spinal cord injury in 2010. Closing one of his recent speeches, he stood to help emphasize his message.
He reiterated how important it is to be unafraid to fail.
"Great things can happen," he said. "That's how we can improve and get better."
Norton later shared the video of his speech last weekend. As of 9 a.m. Monday, it has been viewed more than 16,000 times.
Norton's next goal? To stand at the wedding altar this time next year with Summers.
"I'd like to be able to walk with Emily, too."
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