GALLIA COUNTY — It is hard to imagine for most people what life would be like without either sight or hearing. Imagine going about life without having your hands. Could you do it?
Brad Hurtig has made it his life’s mission to encourage others in beating the odds and he has done it without the use of his hands. Since Monday, he has traveled to River Valley Middle and High School, South Gallia School as well as both Gallia Academy High and Middle School.
Hurtig, 32, of Sherwood, has been featured on the Montel Williams Show, the New York Times, ESPN and more for his mission and story.
“I grew up as a normal, athletic small town kid,” said Hurtig. “I loved playing sports. I had just finished my sophomore year of high school and got a summer job at a local factory. I was working with my twin brother Chris and our good friend Keenan. Us three guys were operating a a 500 ton power press. Our job was to move these pieces of sheet metal from one station to the next. There were four different stations. Us three guys would step up and move the sheet metal pieces and step back. As we did that though about halfway through our shift, I noticed that one of the pieces wasn’t lined up right. It was crooked. I instinctively reached back in because I thought we would ruin the part. As I did that, my friend was turning his back to push the button to the press. The lasers didn’t detect I was there. It came down to stamp the sheet metal piece along with my arms.”
The Gallia-Vinton Educational Service Center along with the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes sponsored Hurtig’s trip to the area.
Hurtig makes use of a pair of prosthetics, regardless of that, in his senior year Hurtig led his team’s defense with a record 111 tackles and all-state honors.
“That was kind of when the national story caught on,” said Hurtig.
Hurtig played basketball, football and baseball. He has spent a little over a decade now sharing his story with those who would hear it.
Hurtig finds inspiration for his “find the way” message from an experience he shared with his coach and, of all things, a simple water bottle.
“The first day back (onto the field) to hang out with the guys,” Hurtig said,” the end of practice, there was a water bottle sitting at my coach’s feet. I said ‘Hey Coach, can I get a drink.’ I was thinking he would pick it up, just like the trainers had been doing. Instead, Coach looks at the water bottle and looks at me and says ‘If you’re thirsty enough, you’ll find a way.’”
Hurtig said he was trying to figure out whether his coach was being a jerk or trying to guide him in a lesson. Hurtig would pick up that water bottle and get a drink. Hurtig has since used that experience as an exercise during his presentations to get students to also attempt to pick up a water bottle without their hands to guide them through a lesson as well.
Throughout his journey, Hurtig will also pair with the band Plain Cities in sharing Christian ministry after school hours. Both the band and he minister to crowds about overcoming struggles and putting their faith in Jesus. The group played a concert Wednesday night at Washington Elementary in Gallipolis.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-46-2342, ext. 2103.