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Hett doesn't let wheelchair slow him down

Staff writer

Everybody has times when they tell themselves, “I can’t do this,” Torey Hett told Hillsboro Elementary School students Monday. But in many cases, when a person really tries, they find it isn’t as difficult as it seems.

Hett, a Marion resident, has had those feelings many times. He was born with spina bifada, a condition in which part of his spinal cord protrudes from his vertebrae. Because of the condition, he can’t feel his legs or feet and uses a wheelchair.

However, 24-year-old Hett doesn’t let spina bifada keep him from doing the things he enjoys. He is an avid hunter and fisherman and enjoys water skiing and snow skiing.

Both kinds of skiing require Hett to use a special seated ski. Hett said he enjoys waterskiing enough that he got his own ski.

“That’s a time I get to forget I actually have a disability,” he told Michele Berens’ kindergarten class.

He only recently tried snow skiing, but he said he might prefer that over waterskiing, because he gets to choose where he goes rather than just following the boat towing him.

When he was younger, Hett was an active wheelchair racer. He said his parents, David Hett and Jamie Shirley, provided crucial encouragement for everything he did.

There are few things Hett can’t do because of his condition, he said. He has a pickup truck and is able to drive, using hand controls for the accelerator and brakes.

He hopes to eventually save for a motorcycle. Hett showed the students a photo of a motorcycle with a wheelchair accessible sidecar. He would get such a motorcycle with hand controls in the sidecar, effectively making the motorcycle the passenger sidecar.

One thing that does occasionally give Hett trouble is reaching groceries from the top shelves at the store, but people are almost always willing to help him.

Hett emphasized that being afraid to try something is often the biggest obstacle to accomplishing it.

Berens’ class has more experience with spina bifada than most, as class member Wenxi Funk shares Hett’s condition. Hett urged the class to include Funk as much as possible.

Hett is a graduate of Marion High School and Tabor College. He works at Marion Reservoir as an office administrator.

Last modified Feb. 24, 2011

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