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August 18, 2015

On his way

After “a rocky road,” Craig graduate Eric Keefer is engaged to be married and loving his new job in Oregon.

This August, 25-year-old Eric Keefer took a two-day work trip with 9-year-old Devin to deliver new power-sports vehicles to customers in Oregon. Eric is an ATV aficionado and enjoys his job at Klamath Basin Equipment. He is engaged to Devin’s mom, Ashley Myrick.

He has come a long way since the 2010 ATV accident that paralyzed him from the chest down.

Eric was just 20 and going to college at Wyoming Technical Institute in Laramie on the day his life changed forever. He was testing the high speed of his brand-new four-wheeler when it hit a concrete drainage ditch. Man and vehicle went tumbling and Keefer sustained broken vertebrae at T5-T6 and a crushed spinal cord.

Therapists at Craig Hospital got him through the first three months partly by keeping him busy, he said. It wasn’t until the self-professed “class clown” and “problem child” returned to his family’s home in Klamath Falls, Oregon that he felt the full effect of his injury.

“It was a downward spiral,” he recalled of the arrival home. “I was angry. I laid in bed for two years.”

Eventually, Keefer began working four or five days a week at his mom’s yarn store, which got him out of the house, and he ventured into the woods a little bit with his dad.

“It took me so long to get back on my wheels,” he said. “But then, I’m slow at everything. I graduated high school in 2008 and it took until 2010 before I went to college.”

In 2014, he reached out to Oregon’s vocational rehabilitation services to find a job.

“It didn’t take long to find a job in this little town,” he said. “KBE hired me to do work related to their Web site and managing their Craigslist entries and incoming emails, as well as to make deliveries.”

KBE ordered Keefer a computer and a desk, which took some time. It was about six months later, in March 2015, when he notched his first day on the job.

“I was really excited, like, ‘Yeah, I got the job!” he remembered. “I was just ready to work; whatever they wanted me to do.”

On his trip the other day with Devin, Keefer used one of KBE’s work trucks for the first time, rather than his own modified (and lifted) Dodge RAM 2500 pickup. He makes deliveries by towing a big trailer loaded with units.

He wouldn’t be living his life to the fullest, he said, without his fiancé and her two kids, Devin and Baylee, who pushed him to get back into life. He and Ashley had dated before the accident, but the impact of the wreck sorely tested their relationship.

Eric Keefer and his fiancé  Ashley

“Resolving it took me getting in gear and getting active; getting a job,” he said. “She encouraged me to be independent and do things on my own. She was my saving grace. If I didn’t think I could get up a ramp, she’d say, “Go ahead and try it.” If I fell out of my chair, she’d say, “Get back up.”

The pair haven’t yet decided on a date for their wedding. In the meantime, Keefer is still doing what he loves.

“I own a Polaris RZR 1000 and I still rip it around,” he said. “Early on, I got on my dad’s four-wheeler and plowed the snow and visited the neighbors sooner than I should have. It’s all mindset; it’s mind over matter. And I worked through it.”


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