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With a New Year Upon Us, Let’s Look Back to Look Forward

Jan 04, 2020 02:53PM ● By Ed Helmick

As one calendar year ends and another begins, it is typical to look back to consider what has passed as we move into a new year.

As a writer for Serve Daily, I have realized some amazing people stories in our community. Ordinary people who have excelled because of their passion for what they are doing. People with challenges who have established a remarkable achievement because of determination and sometimes with the help of compassionate individuals in our community. Based on what we have seen in 2019 there are a lot more amazing people and events to be discovered in 2020.

In 2019 we found the story of a family birthday party that turned tragic when a huge tree fell and crushed a grandmother and two granddaughters. A 4-year-old granddaughter survived with paralyzing injuries.

Out of this tragedy a mountain trail wheelchair was developed by a couple of firemen who rescued the little girl. Then a BYU accounting graduate realized there might be a need among the handicapped population to create a business to manufacture and market the off-pavement wheelchair. This special wheelchair is now called the Extreme Motus. The company has continued to refine the chair and now have a power assisted model. Out of tragedy came something good for many mobility challenged people who want to get out on the backwoods trail.

Then there was the young man who had just graduated college with a degree in forestry science and just received news that he was hired in what he described his “dream job.”

Celebrating he accidently broke his neck, which left him completely paralyzed. He went through a variety of emotional cycles before he realized he had to make something positive with what he had. Jake French has now become a national and international motivational speaker. He was in Utah in July 2019 for a ram sheep hunt arranged by the Springville based Chairbound Sportsman Organization.

Thanks to Trackchair mobility he was able have a successful hunt, which had been a goal since his accident. Jake is the author of a motivational book titled Life Happens, Live it and the weekend after his Utah hunt, he was scheduled to be in Boston to give a motivational talk. Jake French was an amazing guy to meet and another example of the Chairbound Sportsman Organization helping the handicapped enjoy the outdoors.

2019 was also the year that this author discovered Little Warrior’s Camp. This is an outdoor experience for the children, surviving spouse and parents of a fallen Utah service member. It is a three-day event held at Camp Wapiti; a 50-acre mountain retreat operated by the Utah Elks.

It is a wonderful family weekend with numerous scheduled activities, plenty of great food and interaction with caring volunteer staff who truly put the children first. It is also an opportunity for the adults to meet new friends in a supportive and deeply understanding environment where no one will ask difficult questions or make cruel comments about the loss in their lives. What is really striking about this event is how our great nation has service organization that care about our veterans and their families.

The most amazing veteran story is 99-year-old Gail Halvorsen, locally known as the “Candy Bomber” and to the kids of 1948 Berlin as “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” As a 28-year-old Lieutenant flying a C-54 he conserved the idea of dropping candy to the German kids watching the airplanes landing in Berlin during the Russian Blockade from the fall of 1948 to the spring of 1949.

Halvorsen did not have approval of his commander initially, but shortly became a hero of U.S. good will. The wonderful part of this story is that Gal Halvorsen remains active and recently returned from London, where he was featured in the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance.

Based on what I have seen in 2019 there are a lot of interesting people and events to be discovered in 2020. (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)