He Was Given a 3 Percent Chance of Ever Moving Below the Neck Again. Seven Years Later, He Walked Down the Aisle With His Bride
The young man, a quadriplegic, stunned the world when he walked across the stage at his graduation ceremony with his fiancee’s help. The video went viral. Then he walked seven yards at their wedding. That video went viral, too.
A freak accident during a college football game left Chris Norton paralyzed from the neck down. He had misjudged a hit and ended up on the field face down, unable to move. “God, give me the strength to get through this,” he prayed. A doctor told him he’d never walk again. Chris didn’t believe it.
What he once considered impossible was made possible by seven years of hard work in therapy. “Life’s lowest moments can be the source of our greatest gift,” he explains. Now he and his wife Emily want to help others choose hope, no matter their circumstances. They’ve just published a new book about their experience called The Seven Longest Yards. He’s also been the subject of a feature on PeopleTV.
Highlight Reel Moment
The Seven Longest Yards is brutally honest. It describes Chris’ discouragement and Emily’s struggle with depression and anxiety. They both endured difficult seasons. Even in the darkest situation, Chris tried to stay positive. Emily points out that no matter how dark life seems, everything can change for good. “God has great plans for you and He can use those hard moments … and turn it into something that can help others.”
It took a long time and a lot of work and pain to walk across the stage at his graduation and then at his wedding. That’s one reason Chris and Emily decided to write their book. The videos were “like our highlight reel moment,” Chris explained. “But no one sees the battle, the fight that went into those goals and those trainings. I think it’s so easy for any one of us to see those highlight reels and think ‘Why them and not me?'” Through the book they could show people how they got there.
A Big Impact
When Chris read notes from people who said he’d inspired them with his attitude, he began to cry. His dad told him that he had an opportunity to make a big impact. “You can show the whole world your character and what you’re made of. Everyone who reads your story will see what faith in God looks like.”
Once he began to understand how he became an inspiration to others, he decided to start a nonprofit organization called the Chris Norton Foundation. So far, his nonprofit has raise nearly $1 million. The organization uses that money to provide specialized stability equipment for people in his area with disabilities.
“And then we also started a wheelchair camp for kids and families for a free week for them to do like horseback riding, zip line, laser tag, archery — just a lot of fun activities and serving the community together. That’s been a lot of fun, to see that.”
Emily’s passion has been to help kids in foster care to know how loved and special they are. “I truly believe the reason I’m here on this earth is to help kids who are in foster care, who have been abused and neglected or in these terrible situations … and just to help them realize they’re loved, they’re special, that they belong and God has a great plan for their life.”
The Nortons have also adopted five girls from foster care. They plan to continue to provide foster children with a loving home.
Change for Good
Chris and Emily didn’t set out to do the wedding walk to prove anything about themselves. Emily explains: “The biggest thing with that wedding walk was we wanted to show others what’s possible when you get help from each other and God and just keep taking one step at a time. Keep going even when you feel like you can’t.”
Have hope in God and never give up, they say. “It takes a lot of work and perseverance to accomplish anything in life, whether it’s a relationship or a dream that you have,” says Chris. “We want to encourage people and help people to choose hope.” Emily adds: “There’s always hope no matter how dark the time you’re in, but there’s hope and you have to choose that and just keep working hard and trusting that God will take you through it.”
Nancy is an associate editor at The Stream. The mother of four boys, she is currently working toward her PhD in Strategic Communication and Journalism at Regent University.