When Jon Crais suffered a traumatic brain injury which left him paralyzed in an accident in the Sky Country subdivision in 2013, he could have given up and succumbed to a future of being confined to a wheelchair.
That wasn’t an option for Crais.
Instead, Crais has become a beacon of hope and inspiration to many through his upbeat attitude and unrelenting work ethic as he fights to shed his wheelchair and walk on his own two feet again.
“They always tell me I’ll walk again one day,” said the Dahlonega resident. “And I believe it.”
Through his faith, upbeat personality and the help of people who have been moved by his story, Crais has made great progress towards his ultimate goal of walking again.
Now, the young man finds himself in a unique situation, as Crais was recently accepted into the Challenge Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas.
TIRR Memorial has been continually recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s best hospitals and is a national leader in medical rehabilitation and research utilizing some of the world’s leading physicians in rehabilitation medicine.
“We held our breath for a week after we submitted Jon’s application for acceptance,” said Melinda Crais, Jon’s mother. “It’s a very selective program. ... It was such a blessing because people from around the world try to get into this particular program. But, with this great opportunity comes great needs.”
In response to Crais’ acceptance, his mother started a GoFundMe account to help generate the funds needed for Crais to take part in the rehabilitation program.
“Our goal was to get $10,000 to help with the cost of the program and housing for Jon and his caregiver,” Melinda said. “We are currently about $4,000 short and have extended the account indefinitely.”
Crais’ mother is excited about the opportunity her son has at TIRR Memorial.
“He has been accepted into the Challenge Program at TIRR,” Melinda said. “If there is a theme for all of this, it’s that this whole ordeal has been the biggest challenge of Jon’s life.”
Gold City Crossfit owner Jason O’Bryant knows it’s a challenge Crais can accomplish.
“Jon definitely doesn’t lack confidence,” he said during an early morning workout. “ ... When he maintains his focus, he is able to control his movements. It used to take two people to get Jon out of his wheelchair and help him with his exercises, now I am able to do it by myself.”
The work that O’Bryant and Crais’ caregiver and personal trainer Jeremy Johnson have put in over the past several months have resulted in more mobility for Crais, especially with the left side of his body which is the most affected area.
“I’m bending my elbow and knee more on that side,” said Crais with an ever-present beaming smile. “My right side is my bazooka and the left side is my pea shooter.”
It is that smile and those kind of jokes which have inspired others around him.
“Jon has always been a magnetic personality,” Melinda said. “That hasn’t changed at all since his accident.”
Crais has also inspired countless people with the things he has been able to accomplish since his accident. Last October, he made national headlines when he took part in the 40th Anniversary of “The People’s Marathon,” the Marine Corps Marathon.
“He always wanted to run a marathon,” Melinda said.
Crais, with the assistance of local resident and marathon runner Thomas Odom, inspired those in attendance with a heartwarming scene at the end of the race.
Two yards short of the finish line and about 26 miles and 383 yards into the marathon, Odom stopped pushing Crais’ wheelchair.
Then, with the aid of Odom and three Marines waiting near the finish line, Crais was unstrapped from his wheelchair and helped across the finish line on his own two feet.
It was an act of true persistence.
And it is that persistence which leads O’Bryant, Johnson and Melinda to believe that Crais will one day break free from the confines of his wheelchair.
“He is definitely going to walk again,” said Johnson. “It is going to happen sooner than later.”
WALK THIS WAY
Crais’ mother agreed and credited Johnson and O’Bryant with helping in that process.
“These two men will get Jon walking again,” Melinda said.
When local businesswoman Deb Rowe first met Crais and his mother eight months ago at Bourbon Street Grille, she was taken aback by his joyous spirit and the sparkle in his eye. More importantly, Rowe was in awe of the drive within Crais and his mother to overcome all the obstacles life had put in their way and their maintained focus on his recovery. The encounter stuck with Rowe, and when she ran into Crais and his mother again a couple of weeks ago, she was amazed by the improvements Crais had made in such a short time.
“It was incredible to me to see his physical and mental improvements, however small, celebrated by him and his mother and their combined positive energy to continue to prevail over the affects of the accident,” said Rowe.
When Rowe heard about Crais’ acceptance into the TIRR Memorial Challenge Program, she did not hesitate to lend a helping hand and announced that Bourbon Street Grille and Shenanigans Restaurant and Irish Pub would donate a portion of their sales from this past weekend to help Crais with the costs of attending the rehabilitation program.
“I really believe that the purpose of life is to do things that will outlast it,” Rowe said. “After all, when it is all said and done, it’s not what we had in life but what we did with it that is of the greatest importance.”
Rowe estimated that $1,500 was raised over the weekend for Crais’ rehabilitation fund, with an additional $500 from Rowe, personally. Councilman Michael Clemons donated $500. Catherine and Johnny Ariemma, Susan Hunt and Laura Latourette, Ashley and Jason Spencer, Steve Libel and Chauna Utterback also donated money towards Crais’ fund, making a total of $3,500 raised through Rowe’s efforts.
Rowe also mentioned that Spirits on the downtown square will also donate a portion of its sales this coming weekend to Crais’ fund.
The fundraising weekend meant the world to both Crais and his mother.
“What people like Deb [Rowe], Jeremy [Johnson] and Jason [O’Bryant] are doing for the community and Jon is amazing,” Melinda said. “These people have been by our sides through this and truly encompass what it means to be a servant heart.”
As Crais’ journey to recover continues, other servant hearts have stepped up to help the young man reach his goal of walking again.
“We were worried about the cost of housing for Jon and Jeremy when they got to Houston,” Melinda said. “But, we received an email from a lady named Amy Moody recently. Her and her husband own several hotels in and around the Houston area. She offered a place for both Jon and Jeremy to stay at during Jon’s rehabilitation right across the street from TIRR Memorial at no cost.”
The email read, “Fear not, God has prepared a place for Jon.”
“I am just amazed by the support we have received,” Melinda said. “We are blessed to stay surrounded by God-loving people who want to give back and help Jon. We are in a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re in it together.”
Anyone interested in donating to Crais’ rehabilitation costs can visit the GoFundMe account at: https://www.gofundme.com/houstonchallenge