Uploaded: Wednesday, December 19, 2012, 3:35 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 20, 2012, 1:42 PM
Cycling for the future of education
Danville motiviational speaker rides unicycle, juggles up Mt. Diablo
|Blood gushed from the end of his left arm as Chris Hopkins, 21, gazed stunned at his severed hand on the ground. Doctors reattached the hand - but were unsure it would ever work again.
He proved them wrong.
Now, 28 years later, Hopkins juggles with both hands and rides a unicycle - often wearing a long-sleeve shirt and tie - on challenging roads.
He hosted his first "Reach the Peak" ride up Mount Diablo in 2007, after collecting pledges to raise money to buy prosthetics for children. This year, he took a ride up the mountain to raise awareness for Measure D, the $260 million school bond that passed in a close race on Nov. 6.
"I love it when someone tells me I can't do something," said Hopkins, a motivational speaker, told the Express in 2007. "I think perseverance pays off. When everybody has it easy, I don't think people are getting the full life."
Hopkins believes that giving children a good education is the best thing for the future of California, and something that can't happen if we continue to pass an enormous debt onto the next generation. In addition to stumping for Measure D, Hopkins encouraged his supporters to vote "yes" for education in the November election.
"It would be easier to ride a unicycle up a mountain while juggling than to make up for not providing acceptable funding for education," he said. "The generation that will be benefiting from Prop 30, will be the generation that will have the responsibility of competing with the rest of the changing world, rebuilding California, along with the fact that they will be taking care of us when we are retired, so I say we give them the best education money can buy."
Measure D with 56.83 percent of the vote and required a 55 percent super majority to pass. Having worked on the failed 2006 school bond, Hopkins said he knew how hard the district and resident volunteers worked and wanted to help.
"I was told that (Measure D's success) would come down to a handful of people and I wanted to do whatever I could," he said.
As part of a last-minute effort to gather votes in conjunction with a pre-planned training, Hopkins and fellow education supporters gathered at Athenian School around noon on Nov. 5 and cheered as the long-time unicyclist made it up the mountain in 4 hours and 31 minutes. The 50-year-old is training to officially beat the world record for unicycling and juggling (Hopkins said he holds the unofficial record) by riding 57 miles up Mount Tamalpais in April.
"Now we can only hope that the politicians and oversight responsible will respectfully handle this money in a proper and efficient manner and instill trust back to the taxpayers," Hopkins said. "For me, I will continue to make my point with the most powerful weapons I have, my unicycle, three balls, my reattached arm, my voice and my belief that one person can make a difference."
A Realtor at the time of his first ride up Mount Diablo, Hopkins is now an award-winning motivational speaker and seminar leader whose speech,"Climbing Mountains," touts power of attitude change in the face of trauma.
In March 1984, 21-year-old Hopkins was working at a construction job in Rocklin with a saw when he accidentally fell back and his left hand collided with the blade. The saw completely sliced his hand from his arm, and he screamed for help. He said a sheriff was nearby and heard his call.
"Everything was white and my ears were ringing," he said, adding that he barely survived. "I thought someone shot me in the head."
An ambulance took him and his hand to the hospital. Doctors reattached his hand but were uncertain it would function properly and suggested that he use a prosthesis; Hopkins "didn't want any part of that."
Though his left hand was reattached, it had no movement. The hand was in a cast, which was made of metal, and his fingers were laced with rubber bands. After the accident, he was out of work for six years and relied on workers' compensation and insurance to squeeze out a living.
"Why did this happen to me?" he asked himself at the time. He recalled looking through a window and seeing people getting on with their lives while feeling a lack of control in his own life. He said it was a difficult time for him and he was on intense medication.
"There were moments I wouldn't sleep for a week," he said. "The progress in my life stopped. It was terrible."
However, he finally realized he had to face the conditions of his reality, and he began to make changes. He started from the beginning by relearning simple tasks, such as tying his own shoes and 18 months later, he still didn't have use of his fingers.
Still, he found it challenging when he applied for a job because he had little to show after being out of work for six years. He was hired as a property manager in Orange County where he leased apartments.
Soon, he began to give motivational speeches to other salesmen, and he incorporated riding a unicycle -- which had had done since age 10 -- and juggling into his presentations.
Meanwhile, he went to physical therapy and used an electronic stimulator to exercise his fingers to get his left hand going again. Then, when he was driving in 1990, he noticed his two left fingers curling, which was the first time he had seen them move since the accident. Although the other fingers don't work, he uses both hands to drive and juggle.
Hopkins believes that the injury was central to his growth, calling it "the best thing that has happened to me."
Jordan M. Doronila contributed to this article
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