Football Player Severely Injured in Skiing Accident Determined to Have ‘No Bad Days’
“I’ve said it from the start – I have no bad days. There are going to be tough days, but the tough days can’t take away my joy, because every day that I have going forward from here is a day that could have been taken away.” – Hunter Pinke, Bell Bank Pay It Forward recipient
Gus Schlepp, Credit Officer
Julia Stetz, Customer Service Representative
In December of 2019, Hunter Pinke was skiing in Colorado when an accident broke his spine and left him paralyzed.
“I remember everything,” Hunter recalls. “We were both in each other’s blind spots, we came out, collided with each other, and then I lost my balance and ended up crashing into a tree.”
He was 22 years old and a University of North Dakota football player.
“We just put out into social media that Hunter had been in a skiing accident and that he was conscious, but that we were asking for everyone to pray,” remarks Katie Pinke, Hunter’s mom. “This huge swell of support started for Hunter.”
After an 8-hour surgery, Hunter spent 90 days recovering in Colorado, where he went through intensive physical therapy and learned independent living skills.
Gus Schlepp, a Bell credit officer, coached Hunter in junior high and high school football. When he and Julia Stetz, a personal banking representative at Bell’s Timber Creek location in Fargo, learned about the accident, they rallied their co-workers to pool Pay It Forward funds to help.
“I kind of knew he was going to be something special and a leader and go on to great things,” Gus notes. “Anything I could do to help him, I wanted to do.”
Through everything, Hunter has chosen to stay positive.
“I guess it’s just the choice of do you want to bring energy or do you want to take energy?” Hunter remarks. “I want to be a giver of energy.”
“I don’t know that I could have stayed as positive through all of this if he hadn’t stayed as positive,” his mom, Katie, adds.
Hunter’s attitude has served as an inspiration to others.
“He just doesn’t give up, and his demeanor and attitude about everything, it’s astonishing,” Gus says.
Hunter was able to use the Pay It Forward money to order a track chair, which will give him the freedom to do outdoor activities like hunting.
“I don’t think somebody gets through this the way that I have without faith in something higher above,” Hunter affirms. “Then there are also the people who have surrounded me. It all accumulates into a pretty special moment.”
Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.