Brent Poppen was invited to speak to students at Alta Sierra Intermediate today. He is Makai’s mentor at Valley Children’s and has helped numerous kids work through their disabilities.
Poppen said he connected with Makai on a deeper level because his injury was very similar to Makai’s.
Poppen said when he was 16 he was wrestling with another teenager. Poppen said he lifted the boy up and unfortunately he fell on top of Poppen’s neck injuring his spinal cord.
So, like Makai, Poppen had a long road to recovery ahead of him.
Poppen said while going through rehabilitation he did not have anyone to turn to and ask for guidance. That’s why he now dedicates his time teaching acceptance and speaking at schools.
“Some of our patients like Makai, I just attach to them because I see a lot of me in Makai,” said Poppen. “We were both athletes both wanting to not be defined by our disability.”
Makai was on the wrestling team at Alta Sierra when the accident happened last January.
Makai was jumping on a trampoline, did a flip, and landed on his neck. That accident injured his spinal cord paralyzing him from the waist down.
But, despite his hardships Makai is doing his best to recover.
“I’m fully recovered,” said Makai. “I am still working on my strength though and my mobility too.”
While Makai was recovering he stuck with his school work and never gave up. He is set to graduate and move on to Buchanan next year.
“I thank everyone for sending me messages it just makes me really happy, and I am thankful for the support,” said Makai.
Poppen told the students the most important thing is what’s on the inside. He said it is amazing Makai has such a great support system at school.
“He will be that light that inspires this campus and helps people realize that what we initially see on the outside. If we take time to understand and learn about each other that we are all the same on the inside,” said Poppen.