When one door closes, another one opens. That’s the way 28-year-old Corey Reed looks at life. It’s a choice he made after the horrific accident that robbed him of his sight and right leg. He walked through that open door to an uncertain future with faith and a positive outlook. “Live by faith, not by sight,” is his personal motto.
Growing up in southern California, Corey loved the outdoors and playing sports. He played baseball and water polo during high school, and was an avid snowboarder. A talented athlete, many admired and envied his ability to skateboard, surf and snowboard with ease. Corey also enjoyed the thrill of driving – whether it was dirt bikes or cars. “I had a need for speed,” he remembers. After graduating in 2001, Corey attended Moorpark College and worked for his dad, a roofing contractor.
At the time of his accident in 2005, Corey had just started an audio/video business with his friend, “T.” On December 16th of that year, after finishing a job, Corey and T went to a club in Agoura Hills. “At that point in my life I was young and crazy and got into the partying scene,” he remembers.
“I don’t remember much about the accident, but alcohol was definitely involved,” says Corey. “T floored it at an intersection and hit speeds of almost 100 miles per hour.” The car hit some train tracks and veered off the road, slamming the passenger side of the Chevy Tahoe against a tree. The SUV rolled over twice before coming to a stop.
T wasn’t seriously injured, but Corey was not so lucky. He suffered severe injuries to his face, jaw and hand, broke his ribs and shoulder, ruptured his spleen and was bleeding internally. A serious head trauma left Corey blind. His leg became badly infected, necessitating a below the knee amputation.
After awakening from a month-long coma during which he had no idea of the extent of his injuries, Corey immediately felt that his leg was missing. “I remember just trying to grab it and my dad wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘We’re in this together,’ And I just started crying.”
Although his body quickly healed, Corey had difficulty getting used to his prosthetic leg and accepting his blindness. His whole concept of himself and his life had changed and he didn’t know how to handle it.
Fortunately, he was put in touch with Extreme Mobility Camps, a nonprofit Christian
ministry, which hosted a weeklong camp at Winter Park, CO. The camp, which provides recreation and fellowship for people with physical and visual disabilities, was a lifesaver for Corey. People come from all over the country to ski and snowboard there. Corey had his first glimmer of hope that he’d be able to participate in the sport of snowboarding once again. He also met his girlfriend, Kayla – blind since age 4 – at the camp.
Once an avid snowboarder, Corey struggled for the first year. He wasn’t able to board as well as he once did, but was stubborn and at that time refused to accept much assistance. He became very frustrated when he continuously wiped out and heard all the others tearing past him on the mountain. At one point he broke down and cried.
When he returned to the camp in 2009, the love and encouragement he felt from people who understood him left Corey feeling inspired to do more. He was ready to accept that he needed to do it differently. He and his guide used a pole which they held at opposite ends and the guide maneuvered it to signal Corey as they negotiated down the slopes. Once again was able to shred with his “boys” with speed and skill. When he returned home he began to go to church, and his faith in the Lord provided him with even more strength and the realization that faith could heal.
Another door opened for him earlier this year, when a coach for the NSCD boardercross team invited him to compete internationally. Together they developed a headset guiding system through which a teammate gave him instructions as he rode down the course solo. They trained together for two weeks and the system worked great. “It’s all about trust,” explains Corey. His first event was to be the World Snowboard Federation Para-Snowboard World Cups in Alberta, Canada, but he was unable to secure the necessary funding to compete.
So with the door to snowboarding competition closed for the time being, a now confident and fearless Corey has discovered a passion for wake boarding. “It’s something I can totally do on my own, by feel, without a spotter,” he explains. He was able to get up on the first attempt! After securing his prosthetic leg in the bindings, Corey jumped into the water, lined himself up with the boat and said “hit it!” As he rose up onto the water he felt transformed. Grinning from ear to ear, Corey realized that was a defining moment in his life. He is now looking for opportunities to compete in the sport of wake boarding, but has found there are not many organizations which sponsor disabled wake boarding competitions.