While riding on an adaptive bike, Tom Morris was confronted over having an e-bike on a trail last fall. The video of the interaction, captioned with a call for kindness and awareness, went viral in the cycling social media circles and shined a light on the lack of accessibility for individuals with physical impairments.
In 2012, Tom tragically crashed his mountain bike while on a training ride resulting in a broken neck.
“I woke up post-surgery, and I was told by the doctors ‘you are left as a quadriplegic’. They told my wife she would have to be the caregiver – that does everything for me. At that moment, all of my independence was stripped away.” shares Tom.
Sports, competition, movement, and pushing his limits is Tom’s way of life, and after his crash, he was facing the inability to move – even at all.
“I have this saying; if you do not want to quit, you’re not going hard enough. Because I love the idea of being pushed to the limit – sticking with it and keep moving. Everything good in my life has revolved around that tipping point of ‘I just don’t want to do this anymore,’ and I kept going.”
“”It was an utterly surreal moment. Sports have always been the way that I have shown myself. It became this addiction of competition, pushing my body, and it was my way of articulating who I am.”
Growing up, Tom played sports, and his self-proclaimed addition to movement and competition took him to college. But instead of just playing sports, Tom recognized he could inspire other athletes, as a strength coach, to use sports as a modality for self-discovery and a tool for facing adversity.
Now the Senior Assistant Athlete Director for Athletic Performance at Indiana University, Tom creates strength and conditioning programs for the 8-time national champion men’s soccer program.
“I have this saying; if you do not want to quit, you’re not going hard enough. Because I love the idea of being pushed to the limit – sticking with it and keep moving. Everything good in my life has revolved around that tipping point of ‘I just don’t want to do this anymore,’ and I kept going,” Tom shares.
“To be able to be in this equipment and reach down and rub your hand through the dirt and be connected to nature – it’s freedom.”
Pursue. Persist. Persevere.
As his entire world shifted due to a single bike crash, Tom held onto his “CAN mentality.”
“It all came back to, ‘what’s next?’ To me, the recovery was the next competition. I obviously wasn’t racing my bike like I planned, but this is going to be the new thing that’s in front of me. I asked myself, what CAN I control?”
Unparalleled perseverance, trained resiliency, and with his CAN mentality, Tom went from leaving the hospital to living independently, bring back sport into his life, and his job within a year of his crash.
“The next year of my life after the crash was ‘Try something. Fail. Try something. Fail. But as long as I didn’t quit, I ended up being able to continually check these boxes off and keep moving forward.”
The CAN Project
Now on a mission to accelerate outdoor accessibility for other individuals with physical impairments, Tom has launched the CAN Project in partnership with Bowhead Corp.
The CAN Project is raising money to help fund mobility equipment, making it possible for people to reach previously inaccessible terrain.
“To be able to be in this equipment and reach down and rub your hand through the dirt and be connected to nature – it’s freedom. It’s this thing that makes me feel 100% whole,” shares Tom.
In support of the CAN Project, Tom is raising funds and awareness through a collection of apparel.
On average, the equipment comes in at the same prices as high-end, WorldTour level bicycles, making the financial hurdle difficult for many to overcome.
“With the help of supporters like you, we look to not only help with the financial funding but also to raise awareness about adaptive outdoor sports and activities,” shares Tom.