Five years ago Gavin Warren left his home in Phoenix for a snowboarding trip to Utah with his brother and friend. It was to be a last adventure before his first child was born.
"They figured they would never see me again once I had a kid," he said.
On the last day of the trip he had an accident and broke his back. He hit an icy patch on the slopes and fell.
Warren remained in Utah and spent a majority of the next three years in the hospital while his body battled infections.
His girlfriend and daughter visited him in the hospital three weeks after the birth.
The couple eventually broke up.
"Of all the things I had to fight through that was the most challenging because you build walls on your house and you expect them to protect you through any storm," he said. "And one day those walls come tumbling down."
The time in the hospital was meditative. He said of the first three years after the accident, he spent a full year in the hospital.
"It's a lot of time to be by yourself lying in a hospital bed," Warren, 33, said. "I contemplated everything: who I was, how I'd gotten to where I was and what I was doing with my life."
Upon his return to Phoenix, Warren, who uses a wheelchair, had new goals: to embrace his role as a father and to go back to school.
"I really had to just take stock of everything I had in my life," he said. "I couldn't feel sorry for myself because I had a little girl."
Warren enrolled at Arizona State University and pursued a master's degree in public policy and has dual custody of his daughter, who is now 5 years old.
He also has a new goal: to compete in the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
"I'm looking forward; I think it's the best way to get through challenges," Warren said.
He shared his story with a group of women in Ahwatukee Foothills in February. He visited Chat, Chew and Chocolate under the theme of "Listen to your heart."
"He had to listen and be true to himself," owner Liz Elston said. "He had no choice but to reinvent himself and find the power to go on."
Warren said he has plans to find new avenues in public speaking.
"I always knew I wanted to feel as though I was helping other people," he said. "My grandmother had a saying, which I take to heart: ‘We work to make a living, but we live to give.'"
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