The Stephan Challenge

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When a debilitating cycling accident landed Mark Stephan in a hospital bed, he didn’t let it keep him paralyzed for life but rather continued cycling forward.

“I had participated in 17 marathons, I had run two Ironman Triathlons so my accident was one of those freak accidents that happens when you’re doing something that you love,” Mark says.

On a typical Saturday in August while cycling with friends, the front wheel of Mark’s bike disengaged, sending him him flying over the handle bars. He fractured his C2 and C3 vertebrates of his spinal cord, becoming paralyzed from the neck down.

“I know that it was likely that this might be the long term way that my body would be,” Mark says.

He found hope and help from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, or RIC, where Dr. David Chen and his team began rehabilitation.

“The goal of any of the therapy sessions … was to help those parts of his neurological condition … to get stronger, to build up the endurance … and to try to do the things that we kind of take for granted in life,” David says.

Step after step, Mark slowly regained his strength.

“There was just one step,” he says. “It gave me hope that you know if you can do one, you can do a thousand.”

One step turned into 3,129 miles when Mark got back on his bike and embarked on a 78-day trek by bike from Florida to California. The “Stephan Challenge” raised one million dollars for the RIC.

“One thing I’ve learned is that you can allow yourself a bad day or two but you have that bad day knowing that you’ll come out of it better and stronger,” Mark says.

For more information on the Stephan Challenge and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, please visit the websites below:

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