About his life following graduation in 2017 from Calvin College, Garrett Bazany says modestly, “Just me living my normal life and staying active, and trying to find ways to make things work is making a difference in other people’s lives.”
But take a quick scan of Bazany’s Instagram and Facebook pages and it’s pretty clear he isn’t living a “normal life.”
From paragliding to mountain biking, from kayaking to wakeboarding, Bazany’s life screams adventure.
“When a new opportunity presents itself, I take advantage of it,” said Bazany.
Last year, with the help of a friend and the use of a walker, he made his made his way across the stage for graduation from Calvin College.
Most recently he went off to Korea, where he skied alongside Korean youth before attending the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games as a spectator.
The other aspect of Bazany’s life that is “out of the norm” is his inability to move the lower half of his body. In 2010, Bazany landed on his neck while attempting to do a double backflip on the trampoline in his backyard. It left him paralyzed from the chest down.
As a high school cross country athlete and skier and adventure-enthusiast, that new reality didn’t sit well. “I had about a week of ‘Woe is me, what am I going to do with my life?’” recalled Bazany.
But it didn’t take long before a switch flipped, he said. “I have arms too. I realized the adaptive sports that are out there. I can still be active and do things like that.”
And so he has. Opportunities he never could have imagined are now open to him.
The project Adaptive Sport for Social Change through the National Ability Center allowed him and 11 other individuals from the U.S. with disabilities to spend three days in PyeongChang in March working with 40 Korean youth with disabilities, inspiring them to see the possibilities that adaptive sports can offer.
Following their time skiing together, they all attended a number of events at the Paralympics.
“I would never have imagined I’d come this far in eight years,” said Bazany. “I never thought I’d make a difference internationally, make a difference for these Korean youths. The things I’ve been doing here [in the U.S.] and taking for granted are not present everywhere, and these kids [in Korea] don’t have as many opportunities. Now I’m helping create those opportunities.”
Bazany sees plenty of opportunities in his future as well. He plans to move out west in the next year or so and study to become a physician’s assistant. And he hopes to start his next adventure: training to see if the Paralympics are within reach at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah.
“A lot of coaches say that I have a lot of potential to be good because of my attitude and work ethic,” said Bazany.
“The injury has made me who I am. It’s given me opportunities I never would have had and allowed me to impact others’ lives in ways that wouldn’t have been possible without the injury. You could be bummed out and sit there thinking ‘what if,’ but I realize this is God’s purpose in my life—to continue to stay positive.”