My name is Mike Garrison, and I am just your average 34-year-old kid from the backwoods of Missouri. Do you remember the kid in school who struck out in t-ball, ran the wrong way on the basketball court, or got tangled in the soccer net? That was me. My parents recognized that perhaps traditional sports were not my strong point at an early age and decided to buy me a dirt bike instead. I got my first dirt bike at the age of 6, and for the next 13 years of my life, I spent every moment eating, breathing, and sleeping motocross racing. I dreamed of growing up as a professional racer, making millions of dollars, being swarmed by hot chicks, and signing autographs anytime I left the house.
At the age of 18, I graduated from high school with no real direction in life other than riding my dirt bike. I didn’t want to go to college, I didn’t want a job, and other than the fact that I loved motocross, I didn’t know too much about myself. That all changed on August 27, 2006.
While attending a local race, in an attempt to make a pass for the lead of the race I collided with my best friend mid-air over a jump. We both came crashing to the ground in a pile of bikes, mud, and pain. The crash shattered my T5 and T6 vertebrae, collapsed both lungs, stretched my spinal cord, and left me paralyzed from the chest down.
To many people this sounds like a terribly tragic situation, however, for me it was just the beginning of a journey and life that was beyond what any teenager could ever imagine.
As I lay in the dirt looking up at the sky and a crowd of people around me, I could see the fear and panic on everyone’s faces, but inside I felt nothing but peace, happiness, and a feeling of calmness that words cannot explain – I knew living life had truly just begun.
For the previous 13 years of my life I said “no” to dates, dances, parties, and anything else that didn’t involve racing my dirt bike. After being released from the hospital I decided it was time to make up for all of the “no’s” with a “yes” to every opportunity that came my way.
Over the next few years I took piano lessons in my parents kitchen, I gave a speech at my high school, I went fishing with my grandpa’s old rod and reel, I spent 5 weeks in China with my mom and grandma, I started a custom sticker business, I adopted a dog, and I announced my first race when the announcer at the local race track threw me the mic to go use the restroom.
It was 2015 now, and while out on the town with friends I took a leap of faith by betting the most gorgeous girl I’d ever seen (who happened to be my friend’s sister) that she wouldn’t go on a date with me. I lost that bet, but I won a date. 3 months later as we crossed the finish line as driver and co-driver of an off-road UTV race I proposed in front of the crowd. On August 27, 2016 (10 years to the day of my injury) we celebrated by getting married.
Over the next few years, she pushed me to continue saying “yes”, no matter how wild or crazy my ideas, goals, or opportunities may be. Together we traveled the country to do a little of everything from racing remote control cars in the sunshine of Florida to announcing at the Monster Energy Cup Supercross in Las Vegas.
I was told that I may never walk or feel again, and obviously never ride a dirt bike again. Unfortunately, everyone that told me that had never met anyone from the High Fives Foundation and Motodemption. On August 27, 2021 (15 years to the day of my injury) we celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary in the mountains of Colorado as against the odds I swung my leg over a bike once again to do what I love.
My wife, Britani, has only heard the stories and long-ago memories of my days riding motocross, but on this day, she not only saw me return to my childhood, but she even rode laps alongside me.
Since returning home I am now avidly riding and racing motocross whenever and wherever possible with the enormous support and help of my family, my friends, complete strangers, and even sponsors who have stepped in to help in any way possible.
As a kid my goal racing my dirt bike was simply to win races, but today my goal is slightly different than it once was. Through all of the “yes’s” and adventures I have taken over the past 15 years I have met some truly amazing people, and I have been inspired in so many ways. Now I feel it’s my turn to return the favor.
Today I am riding and racing my dirt bike simply because it makes me happy to the core, but more importantly to hopefully inspire others that anything is possible no matter what your circumstances, setbacks, and/or hurdles in life may be.
As it turns out, I am not a professional racer with millions of dollars, swarmed by hot chicks, who is signing autographs everywhere I go as I planned out as a kid. Instead, I am Mike Garrison – a High Fives athlete, a guy with more memories and stories than time on earth has to tell, a wife/best friend that should only exist in fairy tales, dreams and goals far bigger than money can buy, and most of all I am living a life surrounded by love, happiness, and pure joy that as a kid I could have never imagined.
I am not special or out of the ordinary. Finding true happiness in life, overcoming obstacles, and chasing unimaginable dreams and goals is something that ANYONE in any situation can do – wheelchair or not.
Someone once asked me how I found happiness and a life that I love, and all I could say was, “It started as just a kid and a dirt bike…”
High Fives Athlete # 429