Fort Lewis College senior Selena Touchstone came up with a powerful idea for one of her classes. Her cousin, Keagan Smith, had been in a serious automobile accident in 2013 and lost the use of one of his legs, and she and her fellow students were going to help him walk again.
Smith, 28, who is in a wheelchair for now, is one of a few candidates for a computer-operated brace that could help him use his left leg. He could stand, he could work or walk with his son. The catch is the cost: $75,000.
So on Saturday, more than 60 people turned out for Kolors for Keagan, a 5K run-walk where participants were doused with colored powder throughout the campus course.
Students in Dr. Lorraine Taylor’s Event Management course were charged with putting on an event, with little to no money, limited time and few resources. Taylor called it a partnership between FLC and the community.
“It was up to the students,” she said. “They knew from the beginning that the success or failure of the event was in their hands.”
She said each of her 25 students were involved, working in separate groups to manage aspects of the event. They dedicated a website and created a social-media presence in support of the fundraiser.
“I purposely stayed out of a coordinating role, and they had to step up,” Taylor said. “The most important things they’ve learned is flexibility and communication.”
Earlier in the semester, Smith, his wife and son met with the class, and he shared his story. He’s been attending rehabilitation in Denver, and after meeting with a specialist from Oregon, he learned about the “C” brace.
“It would allow me to stand up and walk and be fully ambulatory with no crutches,” Smith said. “That’d be awesome. They said I could hike mountains. That’s one thing I really miss, being out in the mountains.”
He said the accident changed his life, and in some ways, for good.
“It gets your priorities,” he said. “It changes them from material things to family and people. It’s a tragic accident, but it’s brought out the best in my friends and family. It changed me as a person.”
Smith’s wife, Cheyenne, called it awesome to see what people can do together.
“A year and a half later, and we’re still seeing people do this for us,” she said. “It’s crazy, really cool.”
Local band and FLC alumni Elder Grown played during the event on the FLC campus, and a soaring saxophone filled the campus grounds. Families and friends rooted for runners. Under the campus clocktower, students threw puffs of color – pink, blue and purple clouds carried off with the wind.
Smith did part of the course with his young son on his lap.
Touchstone took it all in.
“It’s so awesome to see that the community is so willing to help,” Touchstone said. “I just suggested it to the class, and we ran with it.”