WALLED LAKE — It’s been four years since Walled Lake Central grad Drew Clayborn damaged his vertebrae and spinal cord while attempting a backflip for the school’s musical, causing paralysis from the neck down.
The Commerce Township community and the Walled Lake Consolidated School District have rallied behind Drew, 19, with annual 5k runs and golf outings, which are organized by The Drew Crew, to raise funds for his approximately $70,000-per-year expenses.
“Without the community, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing. They’re the ones driving the whole force,” Drew said.
The Drew Crew recently launched the “Get Out And Vote” campaign encouraging the community to continue their support by voting for Drew, who now “bleeds Maize and Blue,” in a national contest to win one of four wheelchair-accessible vans. The contest, which began in March, is sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association and recognizes local heroes in communities. People can cast a vote once a day until May 9.
“Drew’s story is an inspiration for everybody. He could have easily wallowed in self-pity — most people would — but he has never done that, and he continues to pursue his dreams,” said David Rogers, Walled Lake Central band director.
Local heroes who fall in the top 10 percent with the most votes head to the finals, and from there, a committee reads the local heroes’ stories, reviews votes and selects four winners, according to LeDon Clayborn, Drew’s father.
Previous winners accrued close to 30,000 votes, and currently, Drew has about 1,700, LeDon said. If The Drew Crew can muster 20,000-30,000 votes from the community, based on previous competitions, Drew has a better chance of making it into the final 10 percent. Over 1,000 local heroes have been submitted for the contest.
“I just would love to see the whole community get behind Drew. He’s an incredible guy doing incredible things, and he needs our help,” Rogers said.
While The Drew Crew has been fundraising for about two years for a van, LeDon said that winning a van would be “tremendous” because the funds they have raised could be allocated back into Drew’s annual care costs and provide a 12-month cushion for the family, especially since once Drew turns 21, expenses are expected to increase.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of it,” LeDon said, referring to the increase in expenses. “If we can generate more than what he needs each year and save it … his lifestyle that he’s grown accustomed to won’t have to change.”
The vehicle would provide Drew with transportation for at least 10 years, which his father says is critical as Drew continues to pursue a bioinformatics degree from the University of Michigan. While Drew would like to cure disease using bioinformatics, his dream is to graduate and become an employee at the university, according to LeDon.
“(Having the van) would mean a lot towards my independence here at school, being able to get to classes and go do things without any notice,” Drew said. “The van we have right now isn’t in the best condition, and it would make it possible for us to park in parking structures and not have to park outside all the time.”
“I’ve never heard him feel sorry for himself once,” Rogers said. “I’ve only seen him keep moving forward. He makes other people forget about his injury altogether.”
Drew lives on campus part-time and has been managing and engaging, including shopping when he is able, and scheduling and managing his prescriptions and doctor appointments. He also has a nine-man team that cares for him, six of whom are full-time. Campus life has also helped Drew with meeting people who share his drive, ambitions and characteristics, creating a bond, Drew explained.
“He’s living. He’s living. He’s living, and it’s good,” said LeDon.
To vote for Drew as Walled Lake and Commerce Township’s local hero, visit www.thedrewcrew.org or www.therewcrew.net.
“As a family, we could not be more humbled and grateful for the continuous support we’ve received from the community. Without it, we could not be where we’re at today. It’s nice to feel that love and feel the product of a loving community,” LeDon said.