In 2021 the Wings for Life World Run returns to Victoria Park Raceway in Adelaide. The event will once again play host to hundreds of walkers, runners, and wheelchair participants with the same goal of raising funds and awareness for spinal cord research. The team at RunAsOne are excited to be taking part this year, and the event will be a particularly special occasion for our teammate Clair Crowley whose husband Scott has been an ambassador for the event since 2018. Ahead of this year’s event, Scott has been generous enough to offer his time to discuss the Wings for Life Initiative, but to also share with us the incredibly inspiring life he has had, and continues to lead, as someone living with a spinal cord injury.
19 years ago in January of 2002, a 21 year old Scott Crowley took the trip of a lifetime to experience the picturesque snowy mountains of Whistler, Canada. Unfortunately, during one otherwise standard Whistler afternoon on the world famous alpine slopes, Scott’s life would change forever. Despite being an incredibly skilled snowboarder, it took just one misjudged flip to land Scott in a permanently injured state that no one could possibly foresee occurring that day. Scott had partially severed his spinal cord, and shattered his L2 vertebrae; he would now experience what he calls a “mixed bag” of impairments below the waist for the rest of his life. As Scott shared the story behind his injury, it’s impossible to not feel an overwhelming wave of empathy for him. However, Scott assures us he is nothing but grateful for the amazing support he has received since his accident. This is a brief snapshot of the inspiring life story of Scott Crowley!
Life Has Changed.
An incredibly positive and optimistic person, Scott chooses to focus on (and master) what he is physically capable of achieving. A professional wheelchair basketballer, and Para Triathlon Commonwealth Games representative, Scott has become one of Australia’s most successful athletes across multiple disciplines. As a result of this, it is perhaps easy to forget the struggles associated with his injury. Therefore, when prompted to do so Scott does not hesitate to reinforce the devastating impact of his injuries, and the daily battles that people suffering with spinal cord injuries endure. While he does not go in to too much detail, it is insightful to hear the new skills he has been required to learn, as well as the skills he was forced to re-learn post accident.
The obvious new skill is learning to operate a wheelchair! Scott makes this look easy nowadays, but he reassures us it wasn’t always this way. As runners with no experience in a wheelchair, we can be forgiven for overlooking simple aspects of everyday life that are very difficult to negotiate on wheels. However, when Scott outlines the difficulty of simply going downhill at an appropriate pace for his surroundings, as well as the more comprehendible difficulty of negotiating stairs, and uneven terrain, it starts to become overwhelming to think about how our lives would change without the use of our legs. Ever the optimist, Scott is quick to change the subject back to all the places and opportunities that are, or are becoming wheelchair accessible. While he would hesitate to accept the accolades, these can no doubt be attributed to the awareness people like Scott are able to raise with the help from some incredible companies such as Red Bull and the Wings for Life initiative.
Friends and Family
While we definitely planned to prompt Scott about our amazing friend Clair and her impact on Scott’s life, we unsurprisingly didn’t need to ask. Scott can’t begin to explain the magnitude of how dependent someone with a spinal cord injury is on their friends and family. There’s the physical aid provided of course, but also the psychological help Scott is able to rely on during the more difficult times. As Scott speaks about the support from his family it is easier to understand his continued lust for life that I can only imagine is rivalled by few more than his 21 year old self!
In 2004, two years after his injury, Scott and his now wife Clair reunited before getting married six years later. In 2012, and then again in 2014, Scott and Clair became parents. Despite having very little room in the car once his wheelchair, dog, and two kids are all packed aboard, Scott thrives in the role as a father and husband. Scott does not hesitate to cite his injury as a massive part of the lives of his wife, and kids, but he is very proud to say that his children are more than accommodating of his needs, and even make sure that every restaurant, café, or other social opportunity they choose to take is wheelchair accessible. Together as a family, Clair and Scott started a business called Push Adventures, with the goal and purpose of creating more accessible tourism opportunities for people with a variety of needs. It is no surprise that for every reason Scott has to be grateful, he chooses to turn it in to an opportunity to provide that same help for others facing the same daily challenges.
As an ongoing peer support for many other individuals living with a spinal cord injury, Scott hopes to continue to inspire, motivate, and educate. In the 19 years since his accident, there has been very little meaningful change in the stem cell treatment options available for people like Scott, so he vows to continue to be a spokesperson and ambassador for further research and funding. Elsewhere, he has his sights set on tackling the full Ironman distance in Western Australia later this year after recently completing the Murray Man Half Ironman in Barmera, SA. While training for these events will keep him busy this year, he is quick to reinforce that his priorities lie with his family. He feels fortunate to have recently been able to access the beach, but hopes to one day be able to walk along that same beach with his family, and kick the footy with his son Oliver!
If you are running tomorrow night, take the time to think about why you are running and the positive impact that your donation can make!
Register for the Adelaide Wings for Life run here: https://www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/en/locations/adelaide
Book Scott for guest speaking, events, ambassadorships and more here: https://pickstar.pro/au/our-stars/1785/scott-crowley