The positive impact of paralyzed barrel racer Amberley Snyder
"I left the state FBLA conference reminded of the importance of showing gratitude, even when your words don’t come out as planned."
On a rainy summer evening in 2019, we watched the “Walk, Ride, Rodeo” movie with our daughters on Netflix. The movie features the story of Amberley Snyder, a champion barrel racer, who was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 18. I won’t give away the story, but unbeknownst to us, the movie prepared my daughters for what was to come.
Fast forward five months following that summer movie night, and our son suffered a complete spinal cord injury in a skiing accident. My husband, Nathan, and I immediately flew to Denver to be with Hunter in the neurotrauma intensive care unit hospital. Our daughters stayed home with grandparents. After Hunter’s eight-hour surgery, I called his sisters to explain in more detail their brother’s life-changing injury.
“He’s like Amberley now, the barrel racer in the movie. He can be like her,” said my older daughter in a calm voice. My youngest daughter got on the phone and shared about all the things Amberley did after her accident and how Hunter would accomplish new things from his chair.
I remember a feeling of peace wash over me as my daughters related the most tragic event of their lives to a Netflix movie they watched once a few months prior.
You know what? The girls were correct. In late February, I traveled to Tucson, Arizona, with my lifelong friend, where Hunter is an architecture graduate student who also competes in adaptative hand-cycling and on the wheelchair basketball team at the University of Arizona. During our visit, we watched our first wheelchair basketball games. As a high school athlete, basketball was Hunter’s first love and the sport he gained the most accolades and success, but football was his sport of choice for college. His face lit up in a way I haven’t seen in a long time when he was playing wheelchair basketball.
Recently, I was a parent-chaperone at my first-ever state FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) conference as our eighth-grade daughter was a first-time attendee. I didn’t look at the agenda until we were getting coffees before the opening Sunday session of the conference and Elizabeth said, “Mom! Amberley Snyder speaks tonight!”
I was captivated by Amberley’s energy and storytelling. I kept my composure throughout her entire presentation, grateful for her willingness to openly share her faith and story about overcoming challenges. After her presentation, Amberley graciously greeted dozens of students, including our daughter who simply said, “my brother is in a wheelchair too.”
The next morning, coffee in hand, I attended the 8 a.m. workshop with Amberley. As I approached the stage to meet Amberley, the summer of 2019 movie moment engulfed me. I started to cry. I motioned I needed a moment but was able to regain my composure as that overwhelming sense of peace came over me. I briefly explained how her story prepared my daughters to see and know more about what their brother could overcome after an accident and adjusting to life in a wheelchair. Later Elizabeth and I had a chance to visit with Amberley when we purchased her children’s book. My gratitude grew.
I left the state FBLA conference reminded of the importance of showing gratitude, even when your words don’t come out as planned. Give thanks to those who have had a positive impact on your life. If you don’t express your appreciation, they will never know.
I’d recommend watching “Walk, Ride, Rodeo.” If you ever have a chance to hear Amberley speak, do it. Next up, my daughters and I want to see her barrel race.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.