This time of year we often start to think about what we are grateful for. Sometimes this comes in the form of going around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and reflecting on what you are grateful for. And other times it is more organic. I recently had an experience with my daughter, Dylan, that highlighted my gratitude in a way I never expected. Humble brag coming…

Dylan, who is 6 years old, came home from school a few days ago and asked, “Mommy, are you famous?” I laughed and asked why she asked that, and she replied, “My friend at school keeps telling me that you’re ‘Vermont famous’.” At this moment I had to figure out how to explain to my 6-year-old why I am more well-known (in certain communities).

16 years ago, I was no different than any other college kid – I was 19, ski racing for Middlebury College when I fell and hit a lift tower sustaining a spinal cord injury. In the following days, months, and years I had an incredible community of people who rallied to support me – the ski racing community, the Middlebury community, the Vermont community, and so many others that I didn’t even know about. I had people come out of the woodwork, both people I knew and many that I didn’t, who sent me well wishes and support in all sorts of different ways. When we started the Kelly Brush Foundation and as we began both our programming and fundraising, I saw the same people double down on their support of me by supporting the KBF – proving that we can turn this terrible accident into something incredibly positive by the power of this community.

So how do explain all of this to my 6-year-old? I told her that so many people loved and supported me after my accident, and as the KBF and the Kelly Brush Ride (something she loves and talks about often) continue to grow, people know who I am. As I explained this all to my half-listening daughter, I was overcome by a sense of gratitude toward these people and communities. It crystallized in my mind that had it not been for these supporters, my trajectory, and in turn, the trajectory of the entire SCI community could have been very different. The KBF has helped over 1,600 people with SCI purchase adaptive sports equipment and empowered thousands more with camps, scholarships, and our other programs. If the KBF didn’t exist, none of that would have happened. And my injury was preventable because I hit an unprotected lift tower. With our focus on changing the culture of ski racing to make safety a priority, how many injuries like mine have we prevented? What I know for sure is the sport of ski racing is much safer now than if the KBF never existed. The good that has come from my injury is immeasurable (even though we often try to quantify it) and I’m so grateful to every person and community who has made this possible.

So what else am I thankful for this holiday season? I’m thankful for my family and the joy they bring to my life. Hiking with them this fall, swimming with them in the summer, teaching my kids to ski, and cuddling up on the couch watching football in front of the fire. These are the moments that I live for. I’m also incredibly thankful for the KBF Team and KBF Board and the amount of work and passion they put into this organization. I rest easy at night knowing we have such incredible people working to make the KBF the best we can possibly be. And lastly, I’m thankful for my health and the ability to live my life exactly as I always dreamed that I could. Having an injury like I had allows me to find gratitude in what I do have. My life is how I always hoped it could be and, in this time of reflection, I have so much gratitude for that.