AUBURN — The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation announced Monday that a local 32-year-old father was named 2010 Best Dad on Wheels.
Ben Hayes said he was humbled Monday morning when he received the call from the foundation telling him that his story received more votes than any other. Paralyzed in an accident in late 2007, the Auburn man credits his large support team, which includes his wife, family, friends and co-workers, with helping reach goals many in his position would have given up on.
"I worked hard to get to this point," Hayes said Monday night. "I'm humbled that people recognize me for not being willing to give up and wanting to find ways to connect with my family and connect with (daughter) Isabel."
The nonprofit organization named after the late Superman actor sponsors the contest each year to honor those living with paralysis who demonstrate dedication, love, encouragement and goodwill.
Dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy, the Reeve Foundation invited the public to vote on its top 10 entries. Nominated by his college-sweetheart-turned-wife, Erin, Hayes received more than 8,000 votes to nab the grand prize, which includes bragging rights for the next year and a $500 gift package from Vineyard Vines Clothing.
"The ability to keep everything in perspective is the key," Hayes said in statement issued by the foundation. "Keep pushing and never let it stop you."
According to the foundation, Hayes embodies the spirit and courage of the contest because he doesn't allow the spinal cord injury to stop him from being an active father in the life of his daughter, Isabel, who was only 4 months old at the time of his accident.
"Ben and our other terrific nominees show that while paralysis limits the body, it doesn't limit the heart and mind's capacity to parent," the foundation said in a statement.
Hayes doesn't allow his wheelchair to stop him from doing all the things with his family that other husbands and dads do. He eats with his daughter, transports her around and tucks her in each night with bedtime stories. One thing that stands out is that he teaches his daughter that being in a wheelchair doesn't stop him from loving and guiding her as she grows.
"I try to tell people to be optimistic and try to keep things in perspective in terms of what they're trying to accomplish," Hayes said.