Paraplegic Jess Markt was injured in a car accident at age 19 and chose to focus his energy on viewing the world in a positive way rather than dwelling on the things he could no longer do.
"I could either focus on the things that I had lost ... or I could view the injury as a challenge to overcome and an opportunity to view my place in the world in a different way."
He calls himself lucky at being able to see so quickly the best option for him moving forward after going through such a massive life change. Helping others through a similar situation in the future proved to be the best method of success for him.
Jess had always been into sports. And although he was a track star at University of Oregon at the time of his injury, basketball was closest to his heart. A few years after his injury, The Wheelblazers, a National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA), from Portland invited him to one of their practices.
"I immediately fell in love with this new version of my favorite sport. I joined the team and have continued playing in the NWBA ever since."
It took Jess over three years to realize that competing in sports at a high level, being a part of a team and having a physical outlet to focus on with wheelchair basketball, would be the final piece of recovery for him.
His love for the sport did not go unnoticed. After receiving a request to coach a team in northern Afghanistan, he embraced this opportunity that would take him outside his comfort zone. Jess found it to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give a group of people an experience they might otherwise miss out on.
Coaching those 12 players ultimately lead to another big opportunity to affect even more people. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), that helps bring physical rehabilitation services to people in countries affected by war and conflict, asked to partner with Jess. His growth with the ICRC, which he still works with, has expanded to over 500 players across the country. Growing to many developing countries, he now works with ICRC full-time on their mission and is now deemed their Global Disability Sport and Integration Advisor.
Jess is still moved by traveling the world introducing people with disabilities to the power of sports and its positive impact both on and off the court.
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