Skip Wilkins was a friend of my dads. He made a lasting impression on me, my dad, and many others around the world. His story is one of acceptance and resiliency. It is one of making the most out of life, regardless of your circumstances. It is one of hope. It is one of perseverance and determination. Skip truly was an inspiration.
In high school, Skip was a football player and a track and field star. His senior year, he received over twenty recruitment letters from college football coaches. His future looked bright.
He would not go on to play college ball. Three days after his high school graduation, he injured his spinal cord in a waterskiing accident, leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. He was left with some mobility in his arms and little control over his hands.
It was a long hard recovery, but Skip was determined to make the most out of his life. He did not view his injury as a disability or a limitation, he viewed it as an injury that would not hold him back from the things that he wanted to experience in life.
Skip went on to accomplish amazing things. He continued to fish, which had always been one of his passions. He went to college and earned a psychology degree. He also got married.
Skip was selected 15 times to the U.S. Wheelchair Team and 5 times to the Paralympic Team. From 1975-1980, Skip earned 12 national records for wheelchair athletes. He received gold metals in international events and won the national championship for table tennis 10 times. Skip became the founding director of the Crisis Intervention Home for adolescents. Skip also traveled around the world speaking and motivating people to be the best that they can be. Skip believed that doing your best is a life time job.
Skip’s motto was, “Build a Dream and the Dream Builds You.”
Who would have blamed Skip if he had decided to give up after his accident and let negative thoughts consume his mind? How easy it would have been to become stuck in negativity. Why me? My life is over. Think about how good I use to have it. Think about how much better others have it. My dreams are crushed. My hard work- down the drain. It was all for nothing. I will never play football again. I will never walk again! I will never go to college. I will never get married. My life is over. Understandable, right?
That is NOT what he did! He did just the opposite. He used his injury to grow stronger and to motivate others. By doing this, he spiraled up and made a difference in the lives of many people around the world.
Skip once told my dad that the only disability many people have is their mindset.
“I would have preferred to not have my injury, but if anyone said they could take away my condition, I wouldn’t let them if they took away my experiences. My experiences are too rich and wonderful to be willing to give up.”-Skip Wilkins
In 2005, Skip passed away at the age of 56, after battling cancer. He did not leave this earth without making it a better place. He lived his life well.
What can we learn from Skip?