Man paralyzed from neck down walks down the aisle with his dream girl
After being paralyzed seven years ago, motivational speaker Chris Norton has tied the knot with Emily Summers.
Seven years ago, Chris Norton of Port St Lucie was paralyzed after a football accident that damaged his spinal column. Through sheer grit and determination, he built a career for himself as a motivational speaker and helped raise money for others like him.
The one thing that Norton always feared was that he would not get to walk down the aisle with his “dream girl”. On 21st April, that fear was forever dispelled when he exchanged vows with Emily Summers.
On 16th October 2010, Norton was on the field playing for Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He was a freshman, just six weeks into college. In the third quarter of that ill-fated game against Central College, Norton mistimed a play and suffered a grievous spinal injury.
While a stunned silence fell over the stadium, Norton can only remember feeling as if “someone had turned the power off” to his body.
“I’m trying to push [myself up] off the ground, but nothing’s working. I prayed to God to please let me just get up and walk off the field,” he told People.
Norton was immediately airlifted to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where doctors informed him that he had fractured his C3-C4 vertebrae. He was given no more than a 3% chance of ever moving any part of his body below the neck ever again. For most people, that would have been a death warrant. But Norton was not ready to give in just yet.
“I wasn’t going to accept that,” he said with determination. “I was going to be part of that three percent.”
After an arduous rehabilitation process and with the help of his family, Norton returned for his sophomore year in 2011. Just a year later, he set up the Chris Norton Foundation to aid people with spinal injuries. The foundation has raised more than $800,000 since. But Norton wanted more. He wanted a family of his own.
“I wanted to be a dad and have a wife,” said Norton. “But I didn’t want to burden somebody with everything I needed.”
After some attempts that did not pan out, Norton decided to try online dating. To that end, he set up a profile in August 2013. Soon, he matched with his future wife. Summers was a student at Iowa State University when she first met Norton. The couple found an instant connection.
“I was waiting for that girl who made me feel alive and someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with,” he said, “and then here comes Emily. I knew she was on the one.”
“I was extremely drawn to him and his story,” she said, “and how he wasn’t just going to give up. That’s how we first connected.”
Over time, Summers realized just how much she cared for Norton. She realised that no matter what happens, “things were going to be okay with him.” He soon expressed a desire of his own: to walk across the stage at his college graduation.
Summers put aside her work at a group home for abused youth and threw herself into research. She heard about the Barwis Method, a facility for injured athletes in Plymouth, Michigan. The night before the walk, Norton popped the question. On that fateful day in May 2015, they walked together across the stage as an engaged couple. 3,000 people cheered them on and over 300 million people around the world saw the video.
“It was incredible to see how motivated he was,” Summers said. “When he sets his mind to something, he does it. That’s why I fell in love with him.”
Soon the couple began preparing for their next big walk: down the aisle at their wedding. Fotolanthropy, a non-profit organization that showcases stories about those who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, started working on a documentary about Norton and Summers. The organization has raised more than $111,000 for the film and are looking to raise another $250,000 to finish it off.
Finally, in a beautiful ceremony at the Abacoa Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, Norton and Summers exchanged a pair of white gold rings and became husband and wife. Almost 200 guests watched the couple make the seven-yard walk down the aisle. The documentary crew was there to record every single second of the beautiful ceremony.
Norton and Summers are raising five foster children below the age of eight and hope to give inspiration to people around the world who are struggling with their own difficulties. As the 26-year-old groom puts it: “There have been a lot of moments where we’ve struggled. But anything is possible if we don’t give up. We want to be an example that life can be remarkable. I’m so blessed and happy with where I am.”