Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stepping into the light

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 1/3/2014

What do you gain when you lose everything?

Perspective, Nick Scott answered Friday.

What do you gain when you lose everything?

Perspective, Nick Scott answered Friday.

Scott, Ottawa, thought he’d lost it all after a car wreck left him paralyzed from the waist down in 1998. He lost hope. He lost sight of all the good things in life.

“I asked the Lord, ‘Why me? Why did this happen to me?’” Scott said Friday morning during the First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa. “I hated who I was. I wished the accident would’ve taken my life, and I got depressed and weighed 300 pounds.”

After crying himself to sleep night after night, Scott said, it wasn’t until a friend came to visit him in Topeka during his rehabilitation that he decided to make a change.

“One friend came and visited, and I talked about this girl I was in love with, and the next weekend he brought her and three of her friends to see me,” Scott said. “I was excited and it was the first time I was alone with friends, but after everybody left, I realized I’d never looked at myself in the mirror. I looked for a mirror and saw myself and I was devastated. I had gained a bunch of weight ... I got depressed and swore to myself I’d never look like that again.”

There were a lot of things Scott wasn’t able to do after returning to high school following the wreck, he said, like play kickball or football, but one activity remained.

“I got obsessed with bench press,” he said. “I knew if I could do anything, the one thing I’d be was stronger than everybody and I focused on diet, exercise and nutrition and got obsessed about that.”

‘A GLASS HALF FULL’

Having been told all of the things he couldn’t do, Scott said, he began to focus on everything he could do.

“It didn’t matter if my glass was half empty or half full, I was just grateful for the glass,” he said. “I took what I couldn’t do and threw it out the window and focused on what I could do — which was bench press.”

The words “can’t” and “won’t” were no longer a part of his life, Scott said, and he defied anyone who told him no.

“I got involved in bodybuilding, then ballroom dancing, speaking and became one of the best wheelchair bodybuilders in the world,” he said. “I worked hand-in-hand with some of the top organizations in the world and the same people that Arnold Schwarzenegger dealt with to make bodybuilding into a sport, and they told me there was no such thing [as wheelchair bodybuilding] and it couldn’t be done.”

After years of hearing nothing but “no,” fitness and bodybuilding organizations finally threw in the towel and told Scott to make his own wheelchair bodybuilding organization, he said.

“They got fed up and said ‘If you think it can happen, have at it,’” Scott said. “I didn’t know what to do, I winged it along. I Googled how to build websites and do video editing and did my own thing. But the next thing you know, the wheelchair bodybuilding site was heard ’round the world, and I got guys involved and made it happen.”

Scott didn’t stop there though, he said. He kept going and became a published author. He also has his own fitness DVDs. A documentary about his life won the only crystal “Arnie” award given by Schwarzenegger in 2011, he added.

“I got involved more and more helping others and thought I’d start my own non-profit,” he said. “I wanted to show people I could make things happen.”

‘WHEELCHAIR ATHLETICS’

Starting and opening a non-profit gym specializing in wheelchair bodybuilding and accessibility is how Scott thinks he can give back and help people in similar conditions, he said, which is why he came up with Wheelchair Athletics.

“It’s not just a wheelchair gym; that’s not the goal,” he said. “These gyms will have everything from basketball courts to high-end equipment, and it being a well-diverse community in an area with a big population, it’s going to succeed.”

Scott has his eye on Kansas City to open his gym — one of many, he said. In hopes of being a non-profit gym, Scott said he wants to raise enough money up front to make it sustainable and not have to continue fundraising.

“This is a different non-profit gym,” he said. “Funds are going to help sustain the non-profit and excess funds will go to help disabled athletes. We’ll have seminars [at the gym] I’ll be speaking at, donations, like the Goodwill where they donate products, but those products are sold on eBay to offer support. We’ll have certified trainers to educate not just regular people, but also the disabled community. Camps, bodybuilding camps, youth camps, you name it; I’ll have it. Sports and recreation for kids and of course get the community involved.”

Scott’s goal is to leave a legacy of helping others, he said. Being able to do the things people said he’d never be able to do is how he hopes to help others, he added.

“It’s not about you, but shooting for the stars because a lot of people don’t believe in themselves or that they can’t make things happen,” he said. “They think it’s impossible, but what I tell people is that someone’s opinion of you doesn’t have to be your reality.”

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