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Jason Olson, Deseret News
Ashley Harrison listens to her husband, Sam, talk at their home in Pleasant Grove on Thursday.

PLEASANT GROVE — At the outset of the year, Sam and Ashley Harrison had just become parents and were adjusting to their new responsibilities as parents of little Benjamin. And that's when life gave them an extra big challenge.

Sam Harrison, 24, was night snowboarding at Brighton Ski Resort on Feb. 16 when he hit a part of a run with which he was not too familiar. He ended up upside down and airborne before landing on his head as he crashed to the cold ground.

Sam Harrison was wearing a helmet, which protected him from serious head injuries. But an MRI and X-rays showed that his neck was broken in several areas and that he also injured the protective layer around his spinal cord.

Two surgeries within 24 hours of the injury kept his life out of danger.

Whether he could walk again was unsure, however.

"It was a huge change. We went from having a new baby and life was so great to, 'What was going on?"' said Ashley Harrison. "It was really hard. It felt like we went from the happiest month of our lives to the hardest."

Sam Harrison now has limited use of his arms and shoulders and no real use of his legs. He has worked hard in therapy to give him a limited amount of motion, but there is plenty more to go as the family hopes for a day when his legs might regain strength to allow him to walk.

Right after the accident, close friends and neighbors Blair and Holly Hasler set up a Web site — donateforsam.org — where people could donate money to help the young family. Within the first three weeks they raised nearly $20,000.

Now friends, neighbors and even strangers have come together to organize a massive community yard sale, which will take place today and Saturday at Robinson Park, 100 E. Main, in American Fork. All the proceeds will go to the Harrison family.

The yard sale will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

"When people see it is a real emergency and people really need help you get to see people's hearts," said Sam Harrison. "You get to see straight through them to their hearts and see what they are really like. For a few people it is sad, but for the vast majority you get to see that people really do care. It is an awesome thing to be the recipient of, and I feel really humbled."

Holly Hasler and Meghan Stubbs, who, along with several other volunteers, have spent hundreds of hours preparing for the yard sale, say they have over four semi-trailer truck loads full of things that will be for sale.

The thing that has touched many involved is that a lot of the things aren't just people's old stuff. Many gave new items that they knew they could do without— just to help.

"We never expected it to be this big," Hasler said. "No matter how much money is made, it is just the service we have seen that has made it worth it."

But everyone involved is definitely hoping for a large turnout during the two-day event.

Sam Harrison has now been home from the hospital for two weeks, and while the many adjustments have definitely not been easy, everyone around him has learned a lot from his positive attitude.

"The three things that motivate me are my son, my wife and who I believe that I am. In life you don't get to choose what circumstances you are put in, but you do choose where you go from there," he said.

One of his first goals has already been accomplished. He gave his son a baby blessing at the LDS Church branch he participated in during his hospital stay.

At the time he was barely able to sit up in a his wheelchair, but he convinced those around him he was up to the challenge. In early March, little Benjamin was given a blessing on the exact day they had planned, even before the accident.

"For all of the things I can't do, it was one of the few things that I still could do and it was one of the really important things," Sam Harrison said. "It was great because just being able to still be my son's father ... it didn't matter that I was paralyzed."


E-mail: ethomas@desnews.com