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Utah dad inspires young son’s award-winning video

First Published Jul 30 2014 12:29PM      Last Updated Jul 30 2014 10:19 pm

When Eric Gillespie asked his dad to be the star of his film about inspiration, his father was hesitant.

"I was very skeptical anyone would find my story inspirational," David Gillespie said. "I’ve only done a few marathons."

His son, then in fourth grade, knew better. David didn’t run those marathons — he completed them via handcycling despite being paralyzed from the chest down.

"He does things other people wouldn’t even try doing," said Eric, who is 10 and will be a fifth-grader at Bountiful’s Valley View Elementary in the fall. "He’s just pulling through it."

Eric’s vision paid off. His video recently won one of seven top spots in the nationwide PTA Reflections contest, which drew nearly 300,000 entries in six arts categories from kids in preschool through 12th grade. Eric’s video won Outstanding Interpretation in Film Production, topping entries from all age groups.


PTA Reflections winners

Ten additional Utah students won national recognition in their age groups, placing a Utah winner in five of six categories: dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts.

Award of Excellence winners

Film Production » Olivia Kelley, Eagle Crest Elementary, Lehi

Literature » Brielle Reichert, Evergreen Junior High, Salt Lake City, and Yuna Shprecher, Oakridge Elementary, Salt Lake City

Photography » Elise Fischbeck, Cyprus High School, Magna, and Lauren Taylor, Kaysville Junior High School

Award of Merit winners

Dance Choreography » Nick Fife, Hillcrest High School, Midvale

Film Production » Riley Shelton, Parkside Elementary, Murray

Music Composition » Dalyn Erickson, North Ogden Elementary, and Brooklynn Zaugg, Legacy Junior High, Layton

Photography » Ethan Christensen, Cherry Hill Elementary, Orem

Award-winning works will be posted on the national PTA web page in August. Beginning in January, they also will be shown in the annual Reflections Art Exhibition in Washington, D.C.

"He still believes in his dreams and he doesn’t give up," Eric said of his dad, who was paralyzed in a 2007 snowboarding accident.

At the time, David was training to run his first marathon, working as a researcher at Huntsman Cancer Institute, and, with his wife Eden, raising Eric and two older sons, one of whom is mentally and physically disabled.

Then on Christmas Eve, he was snowboarding at Brighton Resort when his snowboard caught on something. He flipped backward into a tree. He was paralyzed from the chest down, in addition to breaking his back, pelvis, shoulder and clavicle and puncturing a lung.

He spent four months in the hospital suffering from "every complication of a spinal cord injury most people can have."

Lying in bed then, David didn’t dream of completing a marathon.

"I was more worried about if I’d even be able to sit up or get back to work," David said. He spent the next year re-learning how to live his daily life.

Slowly, he adjusted. The Huntsman Cancer Institute got him an electric wheelchair that allowed him to stand during the day so he could still work in the lab.

He also joined a therapeutic outdoor recreation program where he saw other paralyzed people staying active in sports.

He soon decided he’d like to try again to train for a marathon — this time with a handcycle.

"I liked to prove to myself that I could still do something like that and also, I guess, to show my son that life’s going to throw you a lot of curves, but you have to step up to the plate and hit them," David said.

In 2009, he finished the Salt Lake City Marathon. Since then, he’s completed two others.



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