At most weddings, the walk down the aisle belongs to the bride. But this wasn't most weddings. Although the bride, the former Emily Summers, made a stunning entrance, it was her groom's walk down the aisle after the "I dos" that brought people to tears. That's because Emily's new husband, Chris Norton, had been told he'd likely never move again after a devastating football injury. But on their wedding day, Chris and Emily walked down the aisle and into their new life side by side. It was a 7-yard walk more than seven years in the making.
Back in October 2010, Chris was a freshman on the Luther College football team when a play on the field went horribly wrong. He was taken to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where doctors told him he had just a 3 percent chance of regaining movement below his neck. Chris was devastated, but determined. And he quickly set his sights on that 3 percent. Because for Chris, life isn't about what you can't do. It's about what you can do.
"Chris has never let his spinal cord injury stop him from living a normal life," says Megan Gill, a physical therapist who began working with Chris immediately after his injury. Gill remembers "many conversations with Chris and his family regarding his future, mobility possibilities, careers, and of course, would he ever find the right person to marry." She tells us it was "indescribable" to be among those gathered to see Chris "achieve his dream of walking down the aisle with his bride" and to know he's "living a life full of love, faith and success."
Lori Eaton, also a physical therapist at Mayo, agrees. Like Gill, she has been a part of Chris' journey from the beginning and says it is "awe-inspiring" to see he has "learned to adapt to his injury and rise above his disability." Eaton also attended the wedding, and says "being there when he took his first steps following his injury, it was incredible to witness Chris walking down the aisle."
Gill and Eaton aren't the only ones awed and inspired by Chris and Emily. People magazine covered the wedding and feature the couple's story on an episode of People TV. And as we've reported previously, a documentary — "7 Yards" — is in the works. The movie trailer was just released; you can watch it here. (Have tissues handy.)
While Chris' wedding walk was remarkable, it's far from the only inspiring work he and Emily are doing. There's also Chris' work as a motivational speaker and his efforts to raise funds — more than $800,000 to date — to help others living with spinal cord and neuromuscular disabilities. But perhaps the couple's most significant impact comes from their roles as foster parents. Currently, they're parenting five children under eight, including four siblings. They hope their example may encourage others to open their homes and hearts to children in need.
"Sometimes the world can seem dark and negative," Chris says in the People TV story. "I want to be that light in the world to show that life is awesome. Don't give up on life. Lean on God, persevere, work hard and love on others."
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