At this year’s Gathering Our Voices Aboriginal Youth Conference, RHF Ambassador Trent Seymour spoke to the power of perseverance. Trent, now aged 19, sustained a spinal cord injury three years ago, fresh off the success of his fastball team winning gold at the North American Indigenous Games in Regina, SK.
Addressing a crowd of approximately 1,200 peers, he shared his own story and encouraged others to use their voices to heal, empower, and inspire their communities. As he continues his recovery, he volunteers as an RHF Ambassador to demonstrate how we can all approach life with a fighting spirit.
“My message to you is this,” he says. “Have a positive attitude, and never give up on your dreams. Sure, the road may change, but if you believe in yourself and work hard, anything is possible.”
Before the accident
Trent is of the Dakelh people of the Lheidli T’enneh Band, located in and around Prince George. Living just outside the city on the Fort George (Shelley) reservation, he learned to hunt and fish at a very early age, calling out and taking his first elk at age 12. He’s always loved sports, especially fastball and hockey. He credits his positions both as a pitcher and a goalie with teaching him valuable lessons that saw him through tough times.
At age 16, his fastball team triumphed in the North American Indigenous Games, then competed in the Native Canadian Fastball Championships. Suddenly, tragedy struck. While out elk hunting with two friends, he was injured in an accidental shooting. After four surgeries, doctors saved his life, but weren’t able to repair his spinal cord. He was left with incomplete paraplegia.
Life in recovery
Coming to grips with his paralysis, Trent says, “was a nightmare. I spent several days thinking about this. Little did I know I would have to admit this to myself and say it. I chose to say it to my oldest nephew. As he, his dad, and my dad stood by my bed, holding hands, I looked at him and said, ‘Nephew, you will have to live out Uncle’s legacy as a goalie. Uncle will never walk again.’ The tears were flowing after that.” His words were prophetic: his nephew is now one of the top goalies for his age group in Alberta. As an added bonus, his younger brother is also a goalie.
Trent was faced with another challenge – a visit from his two hunting friends. After careful thought, he chose to forgive the friend who accidentally injured him.
“I knew I didn’t want to carry any negative feelings associated with anger,” he says. “I decided for my and his well-being that I would forgive him. . . He was a good friend and I wanted to keep it that way, and I was genuinely worried about him.” With that action, Trent believes a huge burden fell off his shoulders.
“I didn’t realize at the time that this would be one of the things that helped establish my positive attitude. My focus would be on my healing and I would require all my strength to accomplish this,” he says.
Learning to become a leader
While in hospital, Trent was surprised by a visit from Rick Hansen. They struck up a natural friendship around outdoor life and athletics.
Trent continued his healing journey. Rehab taught him how to live productively with paralysis. As the son of a chief, he traveled the grounds learning about the land and knew he had to bring his story back to his community, where he could serve as a mentor to younger children going through hard times.
He graduated high school, on time, with his friends. He served as a torchbearer in the 2015 Canada Winter Games. He accepted an opportunity to become a fastball umpire, and got back into sports. Today he plays wheelchair basketball for Team BC (Under 21) and is a goalie in sledge hockey. He aspires to make Team Canada in the future.
He attended the Défi sportif 2017 Team Canada Camp, a great achievement because it was only his first year of sledge hockey. Trent also attended and spoke in Ottawa for WE Day Canada with Rick.
Trent and Rick on stage at WE Day Canada
Photo credit: Ottawa Life Magazine
Trent meeting Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau while at WE Day Canada
Along with his role as an RHF Ambassador, Trent joined the RHF Access & Inclusion team this year as an intern. He is involved in the team’s work to remove physical barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities and create a more inclusive world.
Want to have Trent speak at your school or community gathering? Book online at rickhansen.com.