Get up! Show up! Never Give up!
In today’s society, many people feel we don’t have enough heroes or people to look up to… The problem is, those people just don’t look close enough. Meet Chris Wilton. A hero to those who know and love him. The purest essence of humility, honesty, humor, persistence & perseverance most of us (that know him) will ever encounter.
Chris, up until the age of 16, was playing baseball, football, running and jumping just like most high school teenage boys until one day he noticed his body was not cooperating and he started to lose muscle tone. After being misdiagnosed with a heart disease, he spent the next 8 years of his life struggling to maintain strength to walk and even stand. Despite his struggles, Chris managed a full-time job up until the age of 24 when he was laid off by his employer. He spent the next year questioning his abilities to live independently and to maintain a job and eventually became fed up enough to seek more answers – the right answers on his ever worsening condition. After some persistence and perseverance, and determining that the vague answers about what was going wrong with his body would not work for him anymore, Chris found a neurologist in Louisville, Kentucky who diagnosed him with Facioscapulohumeral (pronounced fas-see-oh-skap-you-low-HEW-mur-l) or FSHD type Muscular Dystrophy. FSHD usually begins before age 20, with weakness and atrophy of the muscles around the eyes and mouth, shoulders, upper arms and lower legs. Later, weakness can spread to abdominal muscles and sometimes hip muscles. It is caused by an overproduction of a protein called Dystrophin.
Chris quickly ended up in a wheelchair and instead of feeling sorry for himself and being devastated with his circumstances, he chose the outlook of “what’s next?” “What do I do next?” Although the loss of independence was sometimes frustrating, he soldiered through physical therapy and figured out what he needed and began to devise a plan to empower and liberate himself again so he could eventually live on his own.
In 2006, Chris’ friends and family got together and decided they wanted to help him achieve his goals of independent living. The first objective was to raise money for a wheelchair accessible van. Out of this need, Wheels for Wilton (fundraiser) plans were quickly underway. Chris struggled with guilt (about receiving money from others) throughout the fundraising process but the donations kept coming in. It was a humbling experience but one that restored his faith in humanity when in 2008, enough money had been raised to buy the van. The State of Indiana then stepped in and said they would handle the modifications needed if Chris either returned to the work force or went to school.
With a new accessibility and freedom and now an obligation to fulfill, Chris chose college! He had two goals starting out at Indiana University Southeast: 1.) Don’t drop any classes and 2.) Don’t skip any classes. He persisted and achieved both goals and not only graduated but graduated with Distinction with the class of 2012, earning a Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in writing. While at IU Southeast, Chris discovered he liked to do research and he just yearned to learn. He also developed an interest in the German language and ended up minoring in the subject. Chris is now a member of the German-American Club in Louisville, Kentucky and has spent time on the board of directors there.
Now with a modified van and a college degree under his belt, Chris moved out on his own into an independent-living apartment. But he still had goals! Although disability benefits were a blessing for Chris, he did not want disability to be his only option. He wanted to use the system for the way it was designed… to help him get back on his feet. In Chris’ mind he had three choices: 1.) Check out early – to which he said he wouldn’t do that. 2.) He could just lay down and die slowly, give up – and that was not an option for him either. 3.) Have a pity party for himself – He determined he couldn’t & wouldn’t do that either. The ONLY choice Chris felt he had was to pull his boot straps up and GET ON WITH IT! And, that is exactly what he did! During his journey back into independence, Chris was drawn to Church and started attending Mass with his Mom regularly. During one of the scripture lessons/readings, something really stuck with him: “The last shall be first and the first shall be last” and Chris determined to himself that that it was his time to be first in line!
His next move was to figure out a way to return to work. Chris didn’t know at the time how hard this may end up being and that it would take a couple of years. He had just about given up all hope… spending day after monotonous day getting himself ready to go nowhere – transferring himself from bed to wheelchair – wheelchair to toilet – toilet to wheelchair – wheelchair to shower bench – shower bench to wheelchair – wheelchair back to the bed to dress himself – bed back to wheelchair… just to sit all day with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Without a job and a purpose to get up every morning and go through this exhausting routine, Chris started to become depressed and lose hope of re-entering the work force… until the winter of this year (2016). All the humdrum routine changed for Chris when his long-time friend Lincoln Crum invited him to come check out his on-line auction business. Chris was hooked immediately and a temporary part-time position to just feel everything out – quickly turned into a full-time job.
Chris’ personal interest in research and finding that “diamond in the rough” is what motivates him to spend hours sifting through information to find the value of a client’s item. He speaks freely regularly about what a blessing it has been for him to realize his dream of returning to work. He feels like he has a purpose in life now and is a contributing member of society again. He loves what he does and he is really good at it! He is part of something bigger than himself now, part of a team and we couldn’t do any of this without him!
The moral of the story: Never give up! Never surrender! Chris didn’t let his life circumstances get the best of him. Get up! No matter how you feel… GET UP! Get dressed (even if it takes you 2-3 hours). SHOW UP! And, NEVER GIVE UP!