Nonprofit helps local veteran pursue dreams
RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The holidays can be a difficult time for war veterans, and a local man is reminding us that there are thousands of vets in need.
“Even though the war’s over, the wounds do not go away,” said Dylan Gray of Smith Valley.
Gray knows that first-hand. He was injured back in 2007 during his third deployment with the Marines, when a Humvee he was driving hit an explosive.
‘Happy to be alive,” explained Gray. “And when I came back and woke up in a hospital, there was plenty of my fellow service members who didn’t get to wake up in a hospital. And I really didn’t care what it was at that point in time, I was alive, I could see. I could hold my young son again. And so everything else was going to get figured out.”
Including how to do the things he used to do, without both of his legs.
“You’ve got to adapt to things and overcome and just find a different way of doing things,” said Gray. “But life will go on, you just have to have the determination to do it.”
That’s where Semper Fi & America’s Fund comes in, a non-profit that has provided support to more than 29,000 veterans. Everything from financial support to counselors and other important resources.
“I’ve gotten grants, they’ve helped with sporting events and things that I’ve had to do. Anything along the way that I’ve ever needed help with in the 15 years I’ve been an amputee now, they’ve been there for me,” added Gray.
Including snowboarding, where he reached 11th in the world standings in snowboard cross. He then retired to go to school, where he earned a degree at TMCC and designed a new kind of prosthetic.
“Essentially being able to keep your center of gravity, just to give you your regular motion back, which helps tremendously on the slopes,” explained Gray.
It mimics the full motion of an ankle joint, instead of the typical fixed-unit prosthetic. And this new product could be used for anything, not just snowboarding.
“Right now I have a lot of legs. I have a whole closet full of them. It’s kind of one for every activity.,” explained Gray. “I’m trying to minimize and create things that minimize how many of those I can so I can switch up activities without having to switch legs all of the time.”
He’s going through the patent process right now, and aims to have his business fully up and running by this time next year.
“I kind of did it selfishly at first, just wanting to solve my own problems,” admitted Gray. “But there’s lots of other people out there that have got the same problems, so they’ll have a product that works for them.”
And now he plans to return to competitive snowboarding and try and make the next Paralympic games.
“Yeah I retired out of it in 2018, saying I wouldn’t go back until I was racing on my own snowboarding leg. So that’s the goal.”
Semper Fi & America’s Fund is holding a fundraiser through the end of the year, where all donations up to $10 million dollars will be matched by the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation. You can learn more and donate at www.thefund.org
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