Some athletes believe that they are invincible. Some take home all the glory and some get hit hard with bad luck. But there are athletes who overcome their obstacles with a never say die attitude.
Cross-Country Captain and multiple CCAA National Champion Daniel Bright was able to do that and he did it with an army of supporters.
Sunday, August 9th is the day Bright's world turned upside down.
Both he and his mother were involved in a car accident that left Bright with a broken pelvis, spinal damage, a ruptured spleen that had to be immediately removed, and serious head trauma that led to spending months in the Intensive Care Unit and little recollection of the accident that should've caused a lot more damage. Recovery wasn't over after being discharged from the hospital either.
Bright has been in and out of a rehab centre because the three-time National Champion was told that he may never run again. "Sitting in the hospital I wasn't sure if life would change for the better or the worse," Bright explained. But that's when the troops were called in for the fight of Bright's life.
When his Humber teammates and coaches found out about the accident, the collective response was that each one of them were in a state of shock.
"We were really shook up," Head Coach Teresa Arnini explained. "It was something you just hear about but not think would happen to your athlete or someone you know."
Teammate Jake Thomson echoed the same sentiments. "It was the same feeling as if you heard your brother was in a life-threatening accident," Thomson described.
Arnini was the first person at Humber to find out and it was through a text that sent chills down her spine. It read 'have you heard about Dan?' from a former runner on the team.
"I went into shock. All I knew was that he was in serious condition in the ICU from the T-bone accident," Arnini remembered. That was all the information she had until she started getting Facebook updates from Bright's family. But even then Arnini said no one knew the full details.
A week after the accident the rest of the squad was informed by Arnini and Head Coach Monique Haan.
"Mo and I took the vets to explain what happened and they were shocked. Some of them were in tears," Arnini recalled. But in that time of need everyone came together to give any kind of support to their teammate, including runners who were long removed from the program.
"We had to do something" Arnini explained. "That's when we all decided that we would be running for Dan."
The runners started by collecting anything they could to help Dan and his parents with things like money for hospital parking and groceries. It was difficult to make visits to the hospital during Bright's recovery because most times it was overwhelming for him. But Bright's father Bruce said people came in droves to see him, even if it was for a few minutes at a time.
"Just a parade of people came to see him in the hospital," Bruce said. "Kids from as far as B.C. came out to see him, former classmates, kids that Dan used to coach, and coaches from high school and even from Fanshawe."
Even Bright was stunned with the turnout.
"It was crazy! I was not expecting so many people to show up," Bright said with gratitude. "It was hard to keep count."
Luke Deighan, Bright's teammate from Fanshawe and now at Humber, visited Bright and said that he had a hard time taking in what happened to his friend.
"I've never seen him down and out like that," Deighan recollected. "This was his year and it was hard to see that he didn't have that opportunity." But Deighan knew that Bright's perseverance would ultimately shine through the fog of his situation. "He was always strong willed and determined to get out of it," Deighan stated of his friend's positive attitude.
Once Bright's condition improved the team involved him in all aspects of their training.
"He was in constant communication with the team. Dan would know everything," Arnini chuckled.
Bright said it was one of the things that kept him going through his gruelling rehab to retrain his body to walk, jump and even just to keep his balance. "Watching them practice and train gave me motivation to get back and train," Bright admitted.
With all the odds against him he managed to cut his recovery time by at least a third thanks to his determination to support his Hawks at his old stomping grounds at Fanshawe College.
"If he couldn't get there he would be going in a bed!" Bruce laughed.
Arnini knew how huge it was for Bright to make it to the Fanshawe meet, but she also knows how much pain he pushed through to get there.
"Dan was wearing a neck brace and was in a walker," Arnini said. "But he was determined to be on the bus with his team so his dad drove behind us the entire trip to London."
Unfortunately Bright couldn't attend the OCAA Provincial Championship at Sault College due to the roughly eight hour bus ride. "How can I help them as a captain if I'm not there?" Bright confided.
So he got creative and sent his squad a letter that they read out and still gave his pre-race pep talk over speaker phone. "Everyone was in tears," said Arnini. "There was silence, people crying, it was very emotional for us."
That weekend the Hawks swept the women's and men's provincial team titles and punched their ticket to the CCAA National Championship at St. Lawrence College in Brockville.
There was no way Bright would miss that meet.
Despite the disappointment of both teams narrowly missing the national podium, the victory was witnessing Bright finally getting his chance to take on the National course.
The same person that was just over four months removed from an accident that could've taken away his ability to run, joined his team to walk the five kilometre Community Race without any supports other than his faithful teammates by his side.
In turn, the Hawks surprised their captain with beautiful navy long sleeved shirts that read their cheer 'Run Bright' on the back with bold white and gold lettering that everyone wore specifically for the Community Run.
"It was so inspirational. He was on this high, walking and smiling," Arnini said with a smile on her face just thinking of Bright in his element on the course.
Then, in a bold statement to this summer's events, Bright sprinted through the finish line. "No matter what Dan puts his mind to he does it," the coach added with confidence.
In a season of peaks and valleys the Hawks were witnesses to one of the greatest victories anyone could ask for – watching their captain get back up after being knocked down by something out of his control.
"Every day has been a battle, but I'm still happy every day," Bright enlightened. "I wanted to show the team that despite going through something so difficult, you're still able to stay strong."
His leadership through this challenging season has rubbed off on his teammates.
"It puts things into perspective that anything can happen," Deighan said.
"He made me feel like I have a lot less excuses," Thomson chimed.
And Bright has continued to stun those around him with his recovery and tenacity. On Nov. 24th he ran two of five kilometres alongside his mom, 15 weeks and two days after the accident.
But his positivity is what's resonated with those around him because he has used this hardship as an opportunity for growth.
"I don't take anything for granted anymore and I don't want my team to miss that," Bright stated.
It's his way of giving back to the team and coaches that helped him make it through this ordeal and see the light at the end of the tunnel.