Turning Pain into Purpose: Norton Hosts Wheelchair Camp

June 18, 2019 11:00 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Online, he won hearts across the nation with his inspirational journey. Now, he is influencing local children and youth in-person.

“This is the first annual Chris Norton Foundation Wheelchair Camp,” said Chris Norton.


Norton and his wife, Emily, founded the new camp at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch. This week, Norton will act as a role model for 25 participants and their families.

“I like sports and I like camp, so it kind of works out,” said Zach Plueger.

“It's great to create memories as a family,” he said. “Also on top of that, just the financial burden it can be to go to a camp, especially a camp with so many fun activities, so we made it completely free.”

Nine years ago, Norton’s life changed forever. The former Luther College football player suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a game. Doctors told him he had only a 3 percent chance of ever walking again.

“I was devastated,” said Norton. “I thought there was nothing I could do that would bring joy and happiness to my life.”

However, even in a dark place, Norton was determined to defy the odds.

“I had to take absolute responsibility over my life,” he said.

“He worked at least six hours every single day, if not more,” said Emily Norton.

All that work led to a moment that captivated audiences worldwide; Norton walked across the stage at his graduation ceremony. He went viral on social media for a second time when he walked down the aisle at his wedding.

Norton’s journey allows him to meet people with similar stories, including 19-year-old Trenton Bass.

“I was injured in a high school football accident in 2017,” said Bass. “I've kind of been calm and accepting the whole time, I can't really explain it; I think that's where my faith comes into it.”

Both Norton and Bass have faith and resiliency.

“Life had a better plan for me than the plan I had for myself,” said Norton, “and if I could go back and change that play I wouldn't do it, because I have my family and my foundation because of it. It gave my pain a purpose.”

Norton is set to release his book, “The Seven Longest Yards,” next month. He is hosting a book signing in Decorah, Iowa, on Monday, July 1st, from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at the Carrie Lee Elementary Auditorium.


Hannah Tiede

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