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Regan Backer: A man of dedication and inspiration


Regan Backer: A man of dedication and inspiration 

By Kendall Rosario 

He is someone anyone can look up to for inspiration and strength.

He’s come an extraordinarily long way in life, which makes his story an inspiration that touches the people who come to know him.

His name is Regan Backer.

If you are a Chemeketa student, or a staff or faculty member, you’ve probably seen him in Bldg. 2, conversing with people who are heading toward their classes or who just stop by to say hello.

You also might have seen him in the weight room, exercising and working hard as he endeavors to reach one certain goal: leaving his wheelchair behind.

“I want to say free because it’s just not fun sitting in a stupid chair all day,” he said.

Jamie Kaltenback, a friend of Backer’s, said, “I have been here since 2007, but I didn’t know Regan until last year when I joined Campus Ambassadors. … My first reaction of Regan was that he had a kind nature, very open and really made you feel comfortable.

“I give him a lot of credit for what he has been through and how far he has come; he is a real inspiration to me.”

Backer, 22, a Salem native, began his college education in the fall of 2009, right after he graduated from McKay High School.

He stresses that his name is Regan; he has no connection to the former president named Ronald Reagan.

He expects to earn his Associates of Arts Transfer degree and graduate in June.

“I want to learn how to better work with people so that I can help them,” he said, explaining his quest for a degree in Human Development and Family Science.

He plans to transfer to Oregon State University after his time at Chemeketa.

“I just want a good education to earn a good career,” he said.

Backer said he was fortunate to be alive. He also believes that God has bigger plans for him.

In 1994, when he was 4, his parents and older brother were heading to the Peoples Church on Lancaster Drive when their car was struck by a drunken driver.

His mother and father suffered minor injuries; his brother sustained a concussion.

But Backer sustained a brain injury; he was in a coma until after his fifth birthday.

Doctors also had to remove part of his brain because of swelling.

“I almost died. God stepped in; he wasn’t done with me,” he said.

At first, he said he blamed God for the accident and wondered why he was the only person in his family who couldn’t walk.

During his junior year of high school, he said he realized that the accident wasn’t God’s fault.

“They ask why bad things happen to good people. … It’s because we live in a fallen world,” he said.

He often cites a Biblical verse, Romans 8:28, and said that it helped him make sense of it all:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.”

He said he was not be defined by his wheelchair and does not limit himself to it.

Chemeketa student Armando Cervantes expressed admiration for Backer as he recently watched him in the weight room, lifting himself off his chair and onto the floor so that he could do pushups.

Cervantes said, “He inspires and motivates me to not take things for granted. It makes me realize that there is never a good enough reason not to get to the gym and work out.”

Cervantes is not the only person Backer has inspired.

Jaime Vincent, another friend, said, “I have come to see how welcoming his personality is and sees how his ‘disability’ doesn’t get him down. He is also not afraid to acknowledge his faith.”

In the years since the accident, Backer has undergone a considerable amount of speech, vision and physical therapy.

He said that he could talk before his speech therapy, but people often couldn’t understand him.

Backer also said that tremors developed a few years after he got out the hospital.

“What annoys me more than not being able to walk are the tremors in my left arm,” he said.

Backer said that he had high hopes to someday walk freely by himself. But until that day comes, he said he relied on God and the weight room to fulfill those hopes.

Backer’s father, Tim, said, “Regan is a fantastic young man, and I am really proud of him.”

Backer said, “There have been many things along the way that has shown God’s power. … I may never walk on this earth, but I rely on God’s time.”






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