On Your Side: Injured Reno teen sets sights on new dream to help others
Gavin Clouser was just 14 years old when a championship motocross career came to a sudden end, changing his life forever.
"When I first got hurt I had no feeling from the neck down," Gavin told us.
A wall of trophies in his North Valleys garage is now a daily reminder of the dream he chased and the tragedy that found him.
"Just a little 15 foot jump and I hit it on a wheelie," he said. "Put me in a back flip and then crushed my head forward."
The accident left Gavin paralyzed. He went from being an athletic and fearless teenager to a young man unable to move on his own or even feed himself. At the time, medical experts didn't offer much in the way of hope.
"I was told by doctors I would never get out of a power chair, would never feed myself independently. I would never be able to move properly again."
Gavin was determined to prove them wrong. But the fact is there are few if any options when it comes to specialized outpatient spinal rehabilitation in the Reno area. It's an unfortunate fact of life for spinal injury patients who live here.
Many of them, Gavin found, are forced to travel out of state to get the care they need.
Josh Southworth is one of them. Josh was paralyzed in a trampoline accident and we've followed his story closely for the past year.
Josh had to be transported by his family in a specially equipped van to a treatment center in Salt Lake City to get the care he needed.
It's an added burden for families who are already coping with overwhelming challenges.
"It's challenging," said Josh's step dad Mike Prascsak. "Splitting the family up, maintaining two households."
Both Josh and Gavin ended up at Neuroworx, a highly specialized rehabilitation facility in Utah that focuses on helping spinal injury patients regain some of their mobility and strength. The staff at Neuroworx uses a combination of cutting edge technology that retrains the brain to get the body to move, along with highly skilled therapists and a simple belief that despite their injuries, these patients can get better, and quite often do.
"If you give someone even that much more independence, that much more function, you have the chance to change their life in a quantum way," said Dale Hull the co-founder of Neuroworx.
Nothing is easy for Gavin Clouser these days. Just opening a door is considered a small victory. But he has been able to regain the use of his hands and arms and some feeling in his legs.
He continues his rehabilitation at home now while taking business classes at Truckee Meadows Community College two days a week.
His dream is to help others who've suffered traumatic injuries by creating a state of the art rehabilitation center like Neuroworx here in the Reno area.
"There's so many people that are lost and stuck without the proper help and I think we can bring that here," he said.
Gavin has already developed a business plan. The next step is to set-up his own non-profit called "Project 701". 701 was Gavin's number when he used to race motorcycles.
Steering around the legal hurdles is proving to be his biggest challenge at the moment.
"Right now I have all the paperwork ready but I need a lawyer to go over and submit it which costs around two thousand dollars. So I've kind of been stuck on that."
But overcoming challenges has become a way of life for Gavin. Determined and optimistic, never willing to take "no" for an answer.
He'll continue working to improve his life and hopefully one day he'll be able to say he's helping other people improve theirs as well.
"Obviously motocross was my life so I miss it but at the same time I feel like there's other things that I'm meant for."
We did check around in researching this story and Renown Health does have relatively new outpatient spinal care facility. So there are some options locally, but not many.
If you'd like to help Gavin pursue his dream he does have a GoFundMe account set-up under the name "Project 701 Never Give Up".
We'll continue to follow his story and keep you updated on his progress.