Walter’s Story

Andrew Skinner noviembre 19, 2020 News, Noteworthy, SCI, Triumph Outreach Update, Upcoming Events, Videos

It’s not every day you meet a Rock Star!

Thanksgiving is next week.  One of the greatest parts about the holidays is family. And when I think of family, I can’t help but think of one of our favorite members of the Triumph Family... our own resident rock star, Walter Sanchez-Escamilla.

If you’ve ever been to a Triumph adaptive sports event, or maybe one of our SCI support groups, you’ve probably met Walter. In fact, it’s hard to miss him.

His laughter and enthusiasm fills any room he’s in - and if he’s outdoors, he fills that space too. That’s because he wants everyone to feel welcome, encouraged and part of the family.

But he hasn’t always been that way. In fact, if you met him a few years back, you might not recognize him.

Walter grew up in El Salvador. He enjoyed his childhood until a civil war broke out.  Fearing for his safety, his family sent him to the U.S. to start a new life.  He arrived in Los Angeles when he was 12 years old with his brother Ernesto.

Walter got right to work to achieve the American Dream.  He finished school, started a career, got married, had adorable twin daughters, and life was good.

In 2007, his life would change forever when he was in a car wreck that broke his back, and ultimately his spirit.

When Walter came home from the hospital, he felt like he was all alone. He did not know where to seek out help or advice from others in the paralysis community. He soon entered a severe depression. At his rock bottom point, Walter had pushed everyone who loved him out of his life. He turned to heavy drinking to numb his anger and sadness.

But the good thing about rock bottom is there’s only one direction to go, and that’s UP!

One day in August of 2015, Walter heard about a handcycling event not too far from where he lived. He loved playing sports when he was able-bodied, so he thought he’d give it a try. It was there he met Andrew, who encouraged him to join a regular support group and make connections with other people living with spinal cord injury.

Soon, Walter started feeling more comfortable with other wheelchair users. He found that the common ground they share is actually a bridge to friendship, community, and ultimately healing.

He also found out that being in a wheelchair often has perks that he’s not ashamed to take advantage of - like front row parking, best seats at concerts and sporting events, people always open the door for him, and just like a rock star, everybody recognizes him when he rolls in the room.

Walter began to volunteer regularly with Triumph’s Adaptive Sports programs and becoming a regular attraction at support groups, helping others make their first move out of isolation and into inclusion.

Many members of the Triumph Family can tell stories of times when Walter’s natural joy and heart of compassion gave them the encouragement they needed to push forward and conquer their seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Today, Walter is our Lead Ambassador, handcycling director, and is our #ResidentRockStar. He helps to train new Triumph Ambassadors, regularly deploys to hospitals where newly-injured patients await his help, and repairs and refurbishes used wheelchairs and other equipment for people in need.

To top it all, he met a beautiful women named Erica and got married!  And he’s committed to being the best husband for Erica, and the best father for his twin girls Amy and Emily.

So next time you see Walter, give him a high five, a fist bump, or a hug. Because it’s not every day you get to meet a rock star like him!

And to all you other rock stars out there, Happy Thanksgiving.

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