It was at the beginning of the school year in August 2019 when I remember having conversations about a looming Wales opportunity with fellow classmates and friends, Faith Denig and Tristan Russell.
“Only like two or three people are going to be able to go.” I remember us saying.
We were all doubters, we thought that what we were being told was an opportunity too good to be true. One that many of us at Ball State would have to pass up for various reasons.
That all changed when Joe Towns came to Ball State in September 2019 to speak with our students. He gave a descriptive presentation highlighting the people we would get to interview and their inspiring stories we would potentially be able to tell.
Joe spoke of the places we would be able to capture through a lens, showing a slideshow presentation of landmarks and visually stunning geographical locations we would get to travel to with the athletes and their stories.
As soon as he was done presenting, I knew I had to call my parents and make this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a reality!
Fast forward to the morning of February 26th, 2020. Tristan, Faith and I were all on a plane waiting to take off at the Indianapolis airport laughing.
“Remember when we all thought we wouldn’t be able to go for a variety of reasons? Here we are, literally sitting on the damn plane!”
Three airports. Three different plane rides. And, just over 5,000 miles later we were on the ground in Wales. We were told that rain was a staple in Welsh culture, but the day we landed the sun was bright, perhaps signaling the experience that lay ahead.
On what was now Thursday afternoon in Wales, Joe took us to Cardiff Metropolitan University’s campus shortly after arriving. Adrenaline and overwhelming enthusiasm prevented sleep even though all of us were extremely tired.
The bright personalities and thrill of meeting the students of Cardiff Met in person after we had been Skyping with so many of them back home, kept all of us awake and excited. These were the people we were going to be making amazing memories with, assisting each other in telling remarkable stories of inspiring athletes.
The next couple of days were spent getting various shots of b-roll and traveling around Wales and the great city of Cardiff. I will never forget how much awe I was in when I first saw Cardiff Castle walking around downtown Cardiff. This architecture simply does not exist in the United States.
We also got an idea of how much variety the country of Wales has to offer. From the beautiful downtown Cardiff, the stunning rocky cliffs at Dunraven Bay or the summit of Pen y Fan Mountain, I found myself speechless and made a conscious effort to occasionally pause just to take it all in.
Each view provides a different feeling. Cardiff Castle representing the past, the view from the top of Pen y Fan Mountain providing peace and Dunraven Bay eliciting the warm feeling of hope.
One of the highlights, if not THE highlight of the trip came with the amazing opportunity to interview an inspiring athlete, Harrison Walsh.
Harrison’s story is conceivably more relevant now than it has ever been before. His story is one of redefinition and reinvention — words that we all might have to take to heart in a COVID-19 world.
At age 18, the rugby player sustained devastating leg injuries that prevented him from pursuing his dream to play rugby and represent his country of Wales on the national team.
Most would not have the determination and positive-spirit that Harrison possesses.
When he was knocked down, he got up only to find a new version of himself. A version that became a dynamic competitor in athletics. One that set a new F44 world shot put record of 15.73m at the Para-athletics Grand Prix in Grosseto, Italy last November.
Sure, there were some difficult times for Harrison on his path to forming his new identity, but he showed resilience and determination on the path to reinvention. I learned from Harrison that sometimes we are at our best when we face adversity.
Working with Harrison, having the opportunity to tell his inspiring story, telling it with fellow Ball State student and friend Tristan Russell, has been an unforgettable experience.
It is extremely safe to say that memories have been made, lifetime friendships have been created and it was an experience I will never forget.