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Dwight Owens: Still Standing

December 28, 2012

Today’s guest post is from Volunteer Mississippi and originally posted on December 12, 2012.

Dwight Owens

Eight years ago, Dwight Owens was a 23-year old teacher and football coach. He was content in his life and career. Dwight’s way of life screeched to a halt when he was hit by a drunk driver in August, 2005. Owens’ spine was severed, and his internal injuries were so severe, doctors did not expect him to survive. Dwight stayed in the hospital for nearly a year, first on life support; then Intensive Care; and then finally beginning his road to recovery.

Permanently paralyzed from the waist down, Dwight spent two years in a constant cycle of rehabilitation, surgery and medical set-backs, but an indomitable will and deep faith kept him focused.

Dwight took the life he nearly lost and dedicated it toward serving others.

He served as an AmeriCorps Project LINC (Linking Individuals Into Neighborhoods and Communities) member with LIFE of Mississippi.

“Being paralyzed & living life in a wheelchair, I take great joy in advocating for people with disabilities. I realize that anyone can become disabled: it’s only an accident away! Therefore, I like to help people realize that when they help advocate for people with disabilities, they may be advocating for themselves one day as well.”

As an AmeriCorps member, Dwight provided peer support to over 1,200 individuals with disabilities. He has completed 48 ADA site surveys to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities, and provided over 300 life skills training sessions to increase independence for Mississippians with disabilities. He also helped many individuals transition from public institutions to their own homes, and started a “Men with Disabilities” support group encouraging independence and leadership. Dwight makes “Before You Drink, Think of Dwight!”presentations whenever he can to caution people of all ages to not drink and drive. “Service keeps me grounded, humble, and reminds me to be thankful for the small things in life.

As a result of Dwight’s AmeriCorps service, many Mississippians with disabilities are active, productive members of their communities. His efforts have not gone unnoticed: Dwight received the AmeriCorps Spirit of Service Award in 2010.

“I truly believe, despite the wheelchair, that I can do anything anyone else can do, I’m just sitting down while I’m doing it. Despite my circumstances, I wake up every morning with unbelievable joy because I’m here to see another day. I want people to feed off my joy and realize life’s value.”

In 2011, Dwight published a book, Still Standing with Dwight, with Jon Praet about his experiences. On December 12, 2012, Dwight and his wife Tamika Chandler-Owens welcomed a beautiful daughter, Brailey Samara.

Volunteer Mississippi is the state commission of volunteerism. Established by executive order in 1994, Volunteer Mississippi has worked to encourage a culture of citizenship and responsibility to America through community and national service programs. Visit them on Facebook and Twitter.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 28, 2012 1:50 pm

    Reblogged this on Miami AmeriCorps Alums and commented:
    A great holiday story from the AmeriCorps Alums National Blog.

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