Trenell Walker is a UNT graduate and is currently working on his masters degree at the University of North Texas in Denton in Rehabilitation counseling.
He has several ideas for starting businesses and is a bright conversationalist which isn’t surprising considering he is a motivational speaker in demand. He has also been paralyzed from the neck down for the last 11 years.
A main project for him now is to acquire an assistance dog.
The 26-year-old suffered the one kind of injury that high school football players and their parents have nightmares about.
As a freshman at Sherman High School he was good enough to play on the varsity team. At 6 ft. one inch and 180 pounds, he hoped to one day play professional ball. There were glimmerings of that being more than a hope.
He was playing that night, Oct. 20, 1995 because he was filling in for another player who had twisted his knee and couldn’t play.
In a game against Wichita Falls Hirschi Walker made a play and then careened into the helmet of a teammate. Because of the way he was holding his head, the crash broke Walker’s fourth Cervical vertebra and bruised his spinal cord. Though his head was up in the way players are taught to prevent just such injuries, it was a freak accident.
He has been in a wheelchair ever since. Four years after his injury his cousin Marva Rambo asked one of her teachers, Sylvester Flores, to speak to Walker. Flores asked him to speak to one of his classes. A motivational speaker was born.
Walker said he found it therapeutic and was glad to discover that people were interested in hearing him tell his story.
Prosper resident Richard Akers has taken on the project of helping Walker get his assistance dog. He is working with Paws With a Cause. The organization trains assistance dogs nationally for people with disabilities.
Paws clients pay no fee to register or apply for a dog, but they are encouraged to participate in fund-raising to acquire a dog. It costs the organization a minimum of $18,000 to raise and train an assistance dog. According to Paws material, the most successful clients are those that participate in fund-raising for Paws.
Walker sees an assistance dog as enabling him to be less dependent on family, friends and people hired to assist him. The dog can pull a blanket off of him if he gets too warm at night or turn on or off a light, open doors and help with any of dozens of tasks. The dogs and clients are specifically matched to each other and the dog is trained with the specific needs of a client in mind.
Walker said that almost everybody at one time or another will have some sort of Disability.
He has a number of things to say about how people interact with him. He has repeatedly had the experience of being in a restaurant with friends or family and the wait staff will ask them what he wants to order. Their response is always, “Why don’t you ask him?” It annoys him when people assume he has a hearing problem as well because people tend to raise their voices when speaking to him.
He also does not appreciate it when people feed him without washing their hands, or touch everything else while they are feeding him.
A number one peeve is when people pat him. They pat his hand or head, not knowing what else to do. He said a hug works just fine.
He does not like the term disabled. He prefers people or a person with a disability because they are still people first.
When asked how he would prefer to be known, he said, “Trenell.”
He prefers living with family and helpers to being in an institution. “It’s one of the most important things one can have in life is how he or she grows. I believe that anything that is not growing is dead. We all have to change. No one woke up today the same as they were yesterday. So one needs to get out amongst people so they can grow and be something in life,” said Walker.
The most important thing he wants people to understand about him is that he is no different from anyone else pursuing dreams and goals in life. He has faith and determination to overcome adversity. “In my eyes temporary defeat does not mean permanent failure because I believe ‘nothing beats a failure, but a try,'” he said.
He added that his disability has given him the ability to do things he would not be able to do without it.
“For instance, inspire people to put Jesus Christ first in their lives, use their mind, skills and abilities to make their dreams a reality despite their circumstances,” he said.
Walker said he is able to live in the community with the help of his family and not be in a nursing home. “The time has come for me to mount up with wings as an eagle and leave home, but there’s a problem. I can’t!”
He is on an extremely long waiting list for community-based alternative programs and community living assistance and support services. If he gets a job and makes more than $1869 a month or has resources equal to $2,000 or more, he will lose his attendant services.
“Persons with disabilities including myself want support from family, friends, local, state and federal government to assist with our constitutional right of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’,” he added.
It is possible to help Trenell Walker in his efforts to pursue his goal of acquiring an assistance dog. You may make a tax-deductible donation to the Texoma Center for Independent Living, Attention: Janis Thompson, 1111 Gallagher Drive, Sherman, Texas 75090.
For information on fund-raising for Walker’s dog call his friend in Prosper, Richard Akers at 972-346-3743.
One of Walker’s favorite mottoes is “Failure is not an option.”
By Penny Rathbun