CBS4 News is featuring a special series of reports this holiday season called the 12 Days of Christmas. The following story was written by CBS4’s Alan Gionet.

If you’d like to help the SCI Recovery Project, visit scirecoveryproject.org.

DENVER (CBS4) – It has been more than four years since what happened in a fraction of a second’s time changed everything for Stefan Moton.

“Just kind of the pain, sometimes mentally a little bit. Just mentally, the pain,” Moton told CBS4. “At night time sometimes … it’s kind of hard to sleep sometimes.”

Stefan Moton (credit: CBS)

Stefan Moton (credit: CBS)

Moton is in a wheelchair, fighting the way his muscles tighten and things get achy. Paralyzed from the chest down, there are still pieces of bullet in his spine fired during 2012’s Aurora theater shooting.

Moton always tried to be a better guy before the shooting. He would tell himself he could be better. Somehow now, it seems like he prepared himself.

“Well, there’s always days you’re going to be pretty angry at life. Just you’ve got to move forward because it’s really not going to help you a lot,” he said.

There’s one place where Moton finds he can push himself like he did athletically before the shooting. It’s called the SCI Recovery Project.

“I like the total gym, with my arms. I like the vibrating platform that helps a lot with my bloodflow and my legs. I like riding the bike, too, after I’m done working out.”

Stefan Moton (credit: CBS)

Stefan Moton (credit: CBS)

“He definitely enjoys pushing himself a little bit, which is good,” said Justin Carson, lead adaptive exercise specialist at the SCI Recovery Project. “I’ve learned a while back not to ask him every five minutes if he’s feeling okay, because he’ll say, ‘Yeah, keep going.'”

Carson and Brian Ashbee were working with Moton the day CBS4 visited. They helped him through his workout in the modified gym.

“Most of our equipment is standard gym equipment because adaptive equipment is super expensive, so a lot of the times we use regular gym equipment and we think outside of the box and make is suitable for any individual to use,” said Tahverlee Anglen, executive director at the SCI Recovery Project.

Tahverlee Anglen (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Alan Gionet interviews Tahverlee Anglen. (credit: CBS)

Money is tight, and they do what they can.

“We work hands-on … with every single individual that comes through our doors. It’s important to us (that) their program is customized and individual,” said Anglen.

Many no longer have insurance coverage that covers treatment. The nonprofit works with people who’ve been released from the hospital.

Anglen added, “It’s really difficult to not be able to offer the services that we want … and we would definitely like to continue to raise funds and make sure.”

Stefan Moton (credit: CBS)

Stefan Moton (credit: CBS)

In the room are people who have been victims and people like Joe White who was in control of his own mountain bike when the worst happened and he ended up a paraplegic.

AURORA THEATER SHOOTING: Story Archive | Timeline | Remembering The Victims

“It’s like a lightning strike,” said White, who now serves on the board for the SCI Recovery Project. “I mean it really is instantaneous, it’s not a slow, degenerative thing for most of us, an actual spinal cord injury is a moment of trauma where that spinal cord, there’s an impact whether it’s you know, like you said, through violence or through a car accident or a medical procedure that’s kind of gone wrong, nobody plans on it. This injury’s indiscriminate … it can happen at a moment and your life has changed.”

Moton is able to talk with others with injuries and develop a comradery.

Stefan Moton (credit: CBS)

Moton testifies in 2015 during the Aurora movie theater shooting trial in Arapahoe County Court. (credit: CBS)

“It’s just like normal life, they have something that happened to them and you just talk about it. It’s not like sad or anything, we just talk about it,” said Moton.

“They’re pretty positive so it kind of helps me be happy about what I’m going through.”

Moton would like to see things expanded and Anglen would like nothing better.

There’s never enough and the need for helping people with spinal cord injuries is so great.

Stefan Moton (credit: CBS)

Gionet interviews Moton. (credit: CBS)

“I just want them to do better so I can do better and everybody else that comes here can do better,” said Moton.

Additional Resources

The SCI Recovery Project has helped so many people. Not long ago, they were able to produce this video below of the incredible accomplishments of paralyzed client CJ Powell. I met CJ while there. Like Stefan, he has a toughness and a spirit you can’t stop.


 
I had a great conversation with Joe White about spinal cord injury and what the SCI Recovery Project means. Joe has a terrific perspective on things, which you can see in the video clip below:


 
Alan Gionet is anchor of the CBS4 Morning News and reports on a wide variety of issues and “Good Question” stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV.

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