Ability Works 2014

Ability Works Recognition Ceremony 2014Six hard-working West Virginians were honored Oct. 22 for exemplary vocational rehabilitation through the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services. The annual Ability Works Awards honor one outstanding candidate from each of the agency’s six districts, coinciding with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Their stories below are linked to their names here:

Daniel Hill, Wheeling District
State Winner

Daniel Hill with Nora Morris

Daniel Hill receives his award from Nora Morris, Mrs. West Virginia 2014, who delivered the keynote speech at the Oct. 22 awards ceremony.

Growing up, Daniel Hill was just like all the other kids.

Daniel was born in Idaho and bounced around a lot with his family until his dad left the Coast Guard. When he was in second grade, he and his family moved to Parkersburg, where the family was from originally.

In school, Daniel played baseball and basketball and ran track and field, participating in the high jump event. Daniel graduated from Parkersburg South High School in 2005. He started his college career at West Virginia University Parkersburg. After two years, he transferred to WVU in Morgantown.

It was during that transition from such a small community to a place where he had to meet new people and make new friends that Daniel began to notice a difference. People began to look at him differently.

Daniel, 27, was born with a congenital, below-the-elbow amputation. In school and in his community, no one really treated him as different.

"Growing up, as far as disability goes, I never considered myself disabled," explained Daniel. "Being a congenital amputee, you don’t really know any different. I tell people there was really no room to adapt when I was younger. I just kind of figured it out. I was tying my shoes one-handed at the age of four or five, so it wasn’t any different to me."

Daniel was being treated at Shriners Hospital in Kentucky and he knew he and his family made annual trips there for a reason, but it wasn’t until he moved away that he really started looking into prosthetics and considering what it meant to be an amputee. During this period of self-reflection, Daniel discovered myoelectric prosthetic devices. Growing up, he had a prosthesis that he used when he played sports, but for day-to-day activities, he did not use any type of device.

After discovering myoelectric devices, which is an externally powered artificial limb that you control with the electrical signals generated naturally by your own muscles, Daniel decided he would like to have one. "I wanted to get some bimanual function back and be able to grasp with both hands. … I think it was a cosmetic thing too. I wanted something that looked like a hand. … I had a special glove that fit over it, so it blended pretty well."

During his senior year at WVU, Daniel’s personal experiences led him to decide that he wanted to go into the field of prosthetics. Daniel knew he was interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. He had always been interested in the basic sciences like biology, chemistry and physics.

After graduating in 2010 from WVU with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, Daniel started working on his master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics at the University of Pittsburg, which he completed in 2012.

As a student at Parkersburg South, Daniel was referred to the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Karen Empfield provided assistance to Daniel along the way. Daniel received college financial assistance and DRS purchased his myoelectric prosthetic device that he used during his undergraduate program.

During his graduate program, Daniel had to work in the lab where he actually had to perform tasks that were difficult to do using his more "cosmetic" prosthetic device. He reverted back to using a device with a hook and continues to do so today.

"Being in graduate school for prosthetics, we were literally talking about prosthetics all day," said Daniel. "Other students were asking me questions about being an amputee; it really opened me up to it. For the first time, I was truly secure about being an amputee."

Daniel did his residency at Hanger Clinic in Parkersburg. He worked under Michael O’Donnell, certified prosthetist/orthotist, during his residency.

O’Donnell believes Daniel brings something to the table that most others can’t and that’s his personal experience of being an amputee and being able to relate more directly with a patient.

"Since most of the patients he was seeing had amputations, when they immediately saw his prosthesis they would recognize that. And typically it started the conversation off more quickly than you might with someone who was, for lack of other terminology, able-bodied."

Empfield describes Daniel as a very humble and caring person. She believes his job is an opportunity for him to help others, giving someone the opportunity to hold their newborn baby or helping a child to ride a bicycle.

The support he received from his parents, brother, grandparents, girlfriend and DRS means the world to Daniel.

Daniel currently works in Hanger’s Morgantown and Bridgeport offices and he loves what he does. "I think it’s important to not just love your job, but be interested in it. I love to learn about it."

He explained that now is a very progressive time for the field of prosthetics and unfortunately, most of the progress has been made out of necessity created by recent wars. "Prior to the past decade – like for prosthetic arms – a lot of amputees were using the same devices that they were using in World War II… The past 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen a huge boom in prosthetics. It’s really an exciting time."

Daniel believes that his patients do benefit from his life experience. For someone who has lost a limb, there’s definitely an adjustment period.

"Not only do you not know how you’re going to perform some tasks, but a lot of these amputees can be afraid to go back out in public. They don’t know what people are going to think of them now. They don’t want to be disabled. So to be able to see me; I’m working. I guess I’m somewhat successful in the workforce. To see how fluent – how confident – I am with my prosthetic, I think it definitely provides some comfort to them."

Margie Starcher, Charleston District

Margie Starcher

Margie Starcher's brother and her best friend Sarah received her award at the Oct. 22 awards ceremony.

Margie Starcher’s goal was to be "a productive member of society."

She grew up in Spencer and graduated from Spencer High School in 1989. Margie went on to Marshall University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1993.

While in college, she started working during the summer months. After college, she worked for a couple of accounting firms until she started her own accounting practice in 2008. In 2010, Margie took on a second job as site manager of Hart House, a 20-unit apartment complex for seniors with disabilities in Spencer.

As site manager, Margie oversaw the property. She processed applications, handled accounts payables and receivables and even performed some basic maintenance work for tenants.

She prided herself on being able to handle multiple tasks and projects at one time and she made it her mission to help other people succeed.

Margie started a business with her brother, Will, after they won a statewide business plan competition at West Virginia University. Will developed the idea for a unique and versatile art easel with eight legs, appropriately called the Spider Easel, which can accommodate up to four different-sized canvases at one time. The competition won them $10,000 to develop and start their business, Arachnovation. Will handled the creative side of the company, receiving two patents for the product.

Margie served as CEO, handling the business and accounting operations. For about nine years, Margie sat on the Roane County Family Health Care Board of Directors.

She was involved with her church. She loved working with Operation Christmas Child, a program that collects and distributes Christmas gifts donated in shoeboxes to underprivileged kids in other countries. Margie was also the primary caretaker of her grandmother for 15 years.

After her grandmother passed away, Margie decided to buy her own house. She was thinking about the next phase of her life, potentially getting married and starting a family.

But in 2011, Margie began experiencing weakness in her right hand. She noticed that her speech seemed to be "thick," and people were having difficulty understanding her. After buying her house, she received the devastating diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons, which communicate with the brain and the spinal cord, progressively deteriorate, causing the loss of control of muscle movement.

Margie quickly began having difficulty at work and was extremely concerned about losing her independence due to the nature of her disability. She reached out to the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS).

Margie had always worked and she had a strong work ethic. She was in dire need of services that would enable her to continue her accounting practice and maintain her job with Hart House.

According to Senior Rehabilitation Counselor Betty Parsons, Margie was seeking assistance from DRS that would facilitate any accommodations or assistive devices that would help her continue with her employment.

DRS was able to provide rehabilitation technology and assistive technology evaluations, both at home and at her workplace. "We were able to provide some modifications at home to help her be able to get ready for work each day independently and also worksite accommodations to help her continue performing her work duties at Hart House," explained Parsons.

Sarah Wilfong, Margie’s best friend, explained that it was extremely important for Margie to continue working.

"She still wanted to contribute and help people," said Wilfong. "With Lou Gehrig’s disease, it takes so much away from you, bit by bit, and you mourn and grieve different losses. She had to grieve her ability to write and her ability to drive. And it eventually takes all your privacy and all of your independence from you. And to be able to work gave her a sense of still being her and still helping people, but also a sense of independence and accomplishment."

With the assistance she received from DRS and her own extremely powerful strong will and determination, Margie continued working at Hart House until two weeks prior to her death in May 2014. She was just 42 years old.

"Margie was driven to keep working," explained Parsons and it was her persistence and success at maintaining her employment that earned Margie the nomination as the Charleston District Ability Works award winner from DRS. Unfortunately, Margie passed away before she could be interviewed about this recognition.

According to April Marshall, supervisor of Hart House, Margie had a huge heart and was very good with people. "I think that’s what gave her the ability to do her job as well as she did it," said Marshall. The tenants cared about her because she cared about them.

Debbie Waldron, district manager for Encore Management, the property management company that owns Hart House, credits Margie for being an excellent employee. "She was dedicated. She could do anything. She was just so conscientious, even up until the last minute."

Cassie Heaster, Clarksburg District

DRS Director Donna Ashworth and Cassie Heaster

Cassie Heaster (right) meets with DRS Director Donna Ashworth at the Oct. 22 ceremony in Charleston.

Cassie Heaster, 23, likes a challenge and isn’t afraid of hard work.

When Cassie was just two years old, doctors discovered that she had bilateral profound hearing loss, the cause of which is unknown.

Cassie grew up in Weston, with a very supportive family. She attended West Virginia School for the Deaf in Romney, graduating in 2010.

Having a love for sports, Cassie played volleyball and basketball. She also loved archery and her aim was great, almost always hitting the target and scoring above average.

Her senior year, she was chosen to be prom queen and her academic accomplishments earned her the honor of salutatorian of her graduating class.

During her senior year, Cassie’s principal referred her to the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) to help her transition from high school to employment. DRS provided vocational counseling and guidance, as well as vocational evaluations to help Cassie in the process of selecting a career goal. She had an interest in and a strong aptitude for culinary arts.

After considering all the options, Cassie chose to further her education at Potomac State College in Keyser. She enrolled in the tourism and hospitality program, which has a strong emphasis on the culinary arts. Her favorite classes were the ones that involved cooking and baking.

According to Cassie, DRS helped her to prepare for college and ultimately for getting a job. Her rehabilitation counselor helped her to learn about the things she needed to have for school and helped her access accommodations that would enable her to succeed in school.

Cassie’s primary method of communication is American Sign Language, or ASL. She had sign language interpreters to assist with classroom instruction. DRS provided college financial assistance, as well as assistive technology, including a laptop and a video phone, to help with her education.

According to Crystal Miller, certified rehabilitation counselor for the deaf and hearing impaired, Cassie was a very determined and motivated individual. "She always had realistic expectations of what she wanted to do."

Cassie participated in an internship at Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp, where she learned different aspects of the hospitality service industry. She really enjoyed working in that environment and gained a background in cooking and hands-on experience in the field. "I was able to learn really great things like cake decorating and baking, all the different culinary skills," said Cassie.

She earned her associate’s degree in 2012.

Cassie credits a chef and one of her mentors at Potomac State College for helping her to land her current job at West Virginia University Dining Services. Victoria Van Pelt, bakery manager for WVU, explained that Cassie is responsible for helping to produce all the baked products for the school, including the dining halls and catering. "It could be anything from cookies, making cakes, icing or any kind of decorations."

After she was hired, Cassie received on-the-job training to help her develop her skills and techniques. The university provides a sign language interpreter who comes to Cassie’s jobsite a couple of hours a day, five days a week to help communicate specific work tasks that are required of her during the day.

According to Van Pelt, communication is not a barrier. They write things down and everyone who works with Cassie in the bakery "has taken a sign language class, where we learned the basic signs for baking items, cooking terms … We also know how to finger spell if we need to tell her something."

Miller believes Cassie is inspiring to others, demonstrating that obstacles can be overcome if it’s something people really want to do. "Cassie doesn’t let her communication impairment stop her from accomplishing her goals."

The biggest challenge she faced during her education and in trying to get a job was communication and not understanding people. She had to help people overcome the stigma associated with deafness. "People had to learn that we all had to learn how to communicate with one another," explained Cassie.

She is most proud of graduating from high school with honors. Cassie tries to do her best at everything and works really hard to get what she wants. "I don’t want to just

give it a little," said Cassie. "I want to give it 100 percent."

She enjoys her work. "I really like having the ability to work hard and to help other people and see my work benefit other people."

Cassie’s favorite part of her job is seeing people enjoy the desserts she’s created, especially those made for a special occasion like a holiday or birthday celebration. Their expressions of enjoyment make her happy.

Van Pelt believes Cassie to be a real asset to the bakery and everyone enjoys working with her.

According to Miller, "DRS gave her a little bit of guidance, but for the most part, Cassie was the master of her own ship, her own destiny."

Cassie is grateful for the support she’s received from her family and her teachers at the School for the Deaf.

For now, Cassie wants to keep working hard and progressing. She wants to have a wonderful life. Ultimately, she’d like to get married, have a family and possibly own her own bakery at some point down the road.

Kelly Sears, Beckley District

Nora Morris and Kelly Sears

Kelly Sears receives his award from Nora Morris, who delivered the keynote speech at the 2014 awards ceremony.

Kelly Sears, 53, is a hard-working man with a "never give up" kind of attitude. That attitude helped him transition through a major life-changing experience.

Kelly grew up in a little place called Jonben in Raleigh County. After graduating from Independence High School, he started working in the construction business, building houses for about 15 years. He also worked for a laborers union, running jackhammers and other equipment.

In his spare time, Kelly loved to hunt. In November 2010, Kelly went to his tree stand, a very routine occurrence for him. But that day was not routine and his life changed dramatically.

Kelly fell from his tree stand, hitting the ground approximately 20 feet below him. He lost consciousness and when he awoke, he was unable to move his legs. Lying on the ground for seven hours, he was unsure that anyone would even look for him. Luckily, his family found him and he was flown by helicopter to Charleston Area Medical Center.

Kelly had suffered a spinal cord injury, which left him paralyzed. He came from a large family, with five brothers and five sisters. They supported and encouraged him after this accident.

About a year later, Kelly’s sister persuaded him to seek assistance from the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). He had been a construction worker most of his life and was now unsure of what he wanted to do and what he was capable of doing. He also had a relatively new pickup truck that he was no longer able to get into or drive independently.

When he met with his rehabilitation counselor, she noticed his extremely positive attitude. The first things they needed to address were his home situation and his transportation barrier. DRS was able to evaluate and modify Kelly’s home to make getting ready for work less challenging. They redid his bathroom, making it easier for him to access.

Kelly was also referred to a DRS certified driver rehabilitation specialist for driver and vehicle modification evaluations. DRS assistance helped Kelly to secure a truck that could be modified for his use. He received training on how to drive. He had to learn how to work mechanical hand controls and the equipment to get in and out of his vehicle on his own. Kelly was quick to make the adjustment to a new way of driving.

A community-based assessment helped him to identify his capabilities and determine a vocational goal. During this assessment, Kelly got to work in the wood shop at Lillian James Learning Center. He also worked as a greeter at a Sam’s Club. According to Kelly, the work in the wood shop was right up his alley.

The wood shop refurbishes and repairs antique furniture, restoring it to its original state. They also custom build antique-looking furniture and modern furniture.

It was fortunate that the Lillian James Learning Center had a woodworking assistant position available. Through an on-the-job training program, Kelly learned the skills he needed for the job and he was ultimately hired by the learning center.

Kelly’s responsibilities vary on a daily basis, but they include sanding furniture, cutting wood using a scroll saw or a band saw, gluing and putting pieces together, as well as taking them apart.

Tammy McKinney, who supervises the wood shop, believes Kelly’s experience building houses is an asset for the business, but one of the best things he brings to the table is his attitude. It’s his "well if you show me how to do that, I’ll do my best at it" approach to doing things that got their attention.

"I haven’t seen anything yet that he started that he hasn’t been able to finish," explained McKinney.

According to Joy Napier, rehabilitation counselor and branch office supervisor of DRS’ Oak Hill office, Kelly’s employer is very happy with him and he has done extremely well transitioning to a new job. "He is very positive and does not know the word quit."

Kelly is happy at his job and is grateful for the services he received from DRS, especially with the modifications to his truck. "It makes a difference. You can just go out and get in your truck and come to work."

He is also thankful for the support he’s received from his family, particularly his brother-in-law. "He’s been there since day one," said Kelly. "Maybe he felt bad because I fell on his farm, but he’s the best nurse I’ve ever seen."

Kelly is humble about his accomplishments, but he is proud of having raised his two stepchildren from the time they were two and three years old. They’re now in their early 20s.

Kelly also uses his personal experience to educate other hunters about the importance of using safety harnesses in their tree stands.

McKinney believes Kelly is an amazing person. "He took something that he could’ve stayed home and not done anything, and went out and made things happen so that he could go to work and have a better life and I really admire him for that."

Kayla Manley, Huntington District

Nora Morris and Kayla Manley

Kayla Manley receives her award from Nora Morris, Mrs. West Virginia 2014, who delivered the keynote speech at the 2014 awards ceremony.

Kayla Manley struggled throughout school. And as high school graduation approached, Kayla recognized that she was lacking focus.

Throughout middle school and high school, Kayla’s biggest challenge was trying to pay attention. She had to work so much harder than her classmates. Kayla would sit in the front row of class in order to make herself focus on the blackboard. However, she still fought to concentrate on the topic at hand.

According to Kayla, homework was a constant battle. "I would start one thing and never go back to it. I would pass back by it an hour or two later and remember, ‘oh that’s what I was doing, that’s right, I need to do this.’" She just couldn’t make herself sit down and do the work. She’d find herself doodling or getting sidetracked on other tasks.

A friend of Kayla’s suggested that she talk to someone at the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). Kayla met with Rehabilitation Counselor Teryl Jones, DRS’ Huntington Branch Office supervisor.

Medical testing and evaluations led to a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, otherwise known as ADHD, which manifests itself through symptoms including difficulty staying focused and paying attention, trouble controlling behavior and hyperactivity.

According to Jones, Kayla needed help transitioning from high school to work. Jones provided vocational counseling services to Kayla, which helped her to begin recognizing her strengths and her limitations.

With DRS assistance, Kayla received the medical and counseling services she needed in order to learn coping and intervention skills to help her deal with the ADHD symptoms.

Kayla graduated from Lincoln County High School in 2009. Jones and Kayla had been exploring Kayla’s vocational interests. Kayla really wanted to work in the medical field. She started at Marshall University, pursuing a degree in nursing. However, after helping take care of her nephew who was hospitalized with a respiratory illness, she realized the field was not appropriate for her.

Kayla still wanted to work in the medical field, so she changed her goal to dental hygiene. She took classes at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. However, acceptance into the program was extremely competitive and she had to reassess her situation.

Kayla didn’t give up. "I took a step back and decided to start with dental assisting and possibly work my way up."

With that decision, Kayla enrolled at Huntington Junior College and she thrived in the dental assistant program, graduating in 2013.

While going to school, Kayla worked in the pharmacy at Walmart. She became a registered pharmacy technician with the state of West Virginia after accumulating the required amount of work experience and passing a certification test.

According to Jones, Kayla doesn’t give up. "By the time I met Kayla, she had pretty much tried to work through life situations with her symptoms of ADHD on her own and she did it quite successfully."

Kayla has always faced her problems head-on. "She is a genuine individual, full of integrity, wanting to help," said Jones. "She will not let any situation hold her back from helping herself and other people."

Presently, 23-year-old Kayla is working as a certified dental assistant at Warnick and Semder Dentistry in St. Albans. She needed an internship and she reached out to them. After obtaining her internship hours, they hired her as a full-time dental assistant.

As part of her responsibilities, she prepares instruments for the different procedures scheduled during the day, makes sure the rooms are set up and everything is sterilized, as well as keeping inventory of supplies.

Melissa Warnick, dentist and owner of Warnick and Semder Dentistry, credits Kayla with being an excellent dental assistant. "She works with three different dentists here. She has to learn all of our skills and all of our procedures. We all do things differently."

Jones believes one of Kayla’s best characteristics is her willingness to learn about herself and to seek advice and help as needed. She’s developed confidence in herself, which benefits her and others in her life.

Presently, Kayla has taken on "one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life." She’s taken in two children, a 10-month-old and a three-year-old, and is in the process of getting them settled into her home. Her primary goal right now is to see that these children do not fail.

At some point, she would like to go back to school to be a dental hygienist because she definitely wants to move up in her field.

Kayla is most proud of being the first one in her family to graduate from college. She’s grateful for the support she’s received from Jones and DRS, her fiancé and her grandparents.

Kayla believes that people need to look differently at ADHD because some write it off as an excuse to get out of doing things.

"My mom always said that I just needed to pay attention and she didn’t understand that I couldn’t pay attention," said Kayla. "After I was actually tested and diagnosed, I noticed a complete difference in what I was before and afterwards."

Kayla has definitely found her focus. She enjoys what she does and she believes she has the best bosses in the world who make the workplace a great place to be.

Daniel Garletts, Martinsburg District

Daniel Garletts with Nora Morris

Daniel Garletts expresses his thanks, and shares some personal insights about the unforeseen changes in all our lives, after receiving his award at the Oct. 22 ceremony in Charleston.

What started as a routine day for Daniel Garletts abruptly changed direction and instantly turned his life into a living nightmare.

Daniel had a wife, four kids and a good job doing historic renovation work for nine months of the year and working with the Whitetail National Ski Patrol during the winter months.

On January 22, 1999, Daniel was headed to his daughter’s school to talk about his work with the ski patrol. He never made it. He was hit head-on by a drunk driver.

As a result of the automobile accident, Daniel sustained a traumatic brain injury, as well as soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulder and knee. Daniel describes the first four years after his injury as a nightmare. His short-term memory was gone and he was lost for a long time in a state of confusion. He could no longer work or drive safely.

While involved in physical and cognitive therapies, Daniel was referred to the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) by some of his medical professionals.

Daniel wanted to get his life back, but didn’t know where to begin. A volunteer opportunity at City Hospital in Martinsburg helped him to find his path. He started working one day a week in the transitional care unit, where the patients received a lot of occupational therapy.

His visits with patients who had recently suffered a stroke inspired him. He felt himself identifying with the patients who frequently could not speak coherently due to effects of the stroke. He knew they were scared and feeling isolated, but he was able to provide them with some reassurance that things would get better.

This experience helped him to realize that he wanted to work in occupational therapy because it brings hope back to people who have suffered an injury or a trauma.

With assistance from DRS, Daniel went back to school to pursue his dream. He earned an associate’s degree in psychology from Hagerstown Community College. According to Daniel, "When your short-term memory is whacked, you have to work really hard."

Algebra and anatomy and physiology classes were most difficult. But as Daniel explained, "Like a lot of things in life, there are some hoops… you just have to decide if you want it bad enough."

In 2011, Daniel graduated from Allegany College in Maryland with an occupational therapy assistant degree. Daniel was apprehensive about taking his certification test after reading blogs about 19-year-old students having to take the test three times in order to pass. However, he passed it on his first try.

As part of his education, Daniel participated in two internship experiences. During his first internship, he spent two months in Ecuador, where services for people with disabilities are decades behind the United States, working with kids with developmental disabilities.

There was little budget and they had to develop things for the kids to do. They spent a significant amount of time teaching the kids to make piñatas, which became a cognitive behavioral therapy by getting them involved with something unrelated to their disability.

His second internship was at the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He got to work with veterans who have also experienced instant, life-altering events. Daniel identified with this population and sought out this internship opportunity. He worked under a certified hand therapist and describes the experience as "fabulous."

Through his hard work and determination, Daniel’s life is back on track. He regained his ability to drive and is working in his chosen field.

Daniel, now 54 years old, works as an occupational therapy assistant for Panhandle Home Health, a local home health agency in Berkeley County. According to his supervisor, Katie Brinkley, MS, OTR/L, Daniel works with patients in their homes to help them regain their skills to be independent and manage their day-to-day life skills.

Rehabilitation Counselor Anna Davis credits Daniel with being the driving force of his own success. "His motivation is extraordinary," said Davis. "He literally overcame so much."

Brinkley believes Daniel’s life experiences have made him into the great therapist he is today. His construction experience helps him to recognize home modifications that can make things easier for his patients.

"That also leads into his experience of having a brain injury," said Brinkley. "He just has an amazing point of view to relate to patients that I will never have – and just the empathy and understanding of what the patients are going through, and how their families and their lives have been turned upside down by some traumatic events."

Daniel credits his wife, Laurian, for holding their family together since his accident and he’s especially proud of his kids. In their spare time, he and his family still participate in a lot of outdoor activities.

Daniel is also appreciative of the services and support he received from DRS. After his accident, he felt like he was in a fog. "You have this group of individuals who take an interest in you and give you ideas… They give you hope … They guide you … I needed somebody to guide me."

Presently, Daniel is pursuing what Rehabilitation Counselor Anna Davis believed would be in his future and that is a job working with veterans. Daniel recently accepted an occupational therapy assistant position with the VA Medical Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

According to Daniel, "I’m encouraged by the people I have been able to help … When you change somebody’s life for the better … that feels pretty good."