This Memorial Day weekend was one to remember- joining Mark Stephan for his trek across the country to benefit RIC was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Working at RIC you see and hear stories of tremendous perseverance and determination every day. This experience, this individual: Mark Stephan, a man with a C2-C3 Spinal Cord Injury who was told he’d never walk again affirmed the notion that mind over matter, hope over despair, “I can” over “I can’t” can empower ability and defy the odds of modern science.
We rode with Mark on a steamy Texas day that reached 106 degrees by 1pm. We started the day off early to what was assumed to be a fairly flat breezy day across the Texas plains which is exactly what the morning brought, I never knew Texas was so green and beautiful. Following lunch we started to ride into an empty open road Texas State Park, and this is where the day got long and Mark’s inspiration grew. The park was filled rolling hills that consisted of fast downhill sprints but longer, more steep uphill climbs. Because of the recumbent nature of Mark’s modified road bike, his center of gravity is back to the rear of the bike which was anything but helpful up these hills, let alone his compromised lower extremity strength. At one point, about 10 climbs into the park Mark reached a hill that stopped him dead in his tracks. We jumped off our bikes to help and just as Mark started to roll backwards he stopped his pedals and was adamant that no one help him up the hill and he’d make it on his own; and he did just that. Crank by crank he finally reached the summit of the hill with no help and after a “wow that was tough”, Mark went right back down the other side and continued to ride. This was a defining point of our day, and made us realize how special this experience was.
I’ve never met an individual with more grit and determination to conquer odds as much as Mark Stephan, this experience on his ride has inspired me to bring back his story and share it with as many people as I can here at RIC and wherever I go. Truly ReMARKable.”