Congressional Record article 1 of 50

MAN OF THE YEAR (Senate - February 20, 1996)

Mr. CHAFEE. Mr. President, I want to bring to the Senate's attention the accomplishments of an amazing young man. I first met Doug Wilson in connection with legislation that I sponsored to encourage States to pass universal motorcycle helmet laws. This legislation was included in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 [ISTEA] and Doug was very helpful to me in getting this law passed. But Doug didn't stop there. He has worked tirelessly at the State level, encouraging State legislatures to pass effective motorcycle helmet laws. Doug was instrumental in convincing the Maryland Legislature to pass a universal motorcycle helmet law.

Doug is a very convincing young man. Unfortunately, one of the reasons he is so convincing is because he has experienced first hand the consequences of being involved in a motorcycle crash without a helmet. Doug's injuries were minor except for a severe brain injury--the result of hitting his head on the pavement. His journey to recovery has been long and difficult but it also has been extraordinary. His accomplishments are many and the Journal in Maryland has just named Doug Wilson its `Man of the Year.'

Mr. President, I cannot think of a more deserving person to be the `Man of the Year.' Since Congress unfortunately repealed the Federal motorcycle requirements recently in the National Highway System Designation Act, I am particularly grateful that Doug , and others like him, are working at the State level to educate people about the benefits of wearing motorcycle helmets and the terrible consequences when they do not. I want to congratulate Doug and wish him the very best in whatever he chooses to undertake in the future. I ask that the Journal article recognizing Doug's accomplishments be printed in the Record.

The article follows:

After a Brush With Death, He Leads Full Life

Doug Wilson was never supposed to walk or talk again following a severe motorcycle accident almost five years ago.

But in September, he ran a 5-kilometer race--the third annual Doug Wilson Thumbs Up race--and he's eager to talk about it.

`I was in the hospital for three months [in 1991],' Wilson said. `It never made me upset because I said I was going to be fine, I never thought [running] was something I'd never be able to do again.'

In the spring of 1991, Wilson was a senior at the University of South Carolina, only six weeks away from an economics degree. The athletic and good-looking Wilson had been a soccer player at Churchill High School in Potomac and a place-kicker for the university's Gamecocks football team. He seemed to have it all.

Then it came crashing down. For a still-unknown reason, Wilson lost control of his motorcycle on a clear, straight road. He fell and struck his head on the pavement. He wasn't wearing a helmet.

The accident only broke three bones, but it jarred his brain severely, causing swelling and plunging Wilson into an eight-day coma.
He spent three months in the hospital and six months in a wheelchair. Over the next four years, he had to relearn the tasks most of us take for granted.

`I have an appreciation for certain things most of the whole world wouldn't understand,' said Wilson , who has only the slightest hesitation of speech, along with a shuffle in his walk, giving clues to the serious injury he has overcome.

But Wilson's recovery is more than a personal journey for him. It has involved his entire community.

When he first began to walk again, Wilson said, he volunteered to help with local youth sports. Kids and parents rallied around him, he said. The kids would pick him to play on basketball teams, even though he could barely walk, let alone run and jump.
`They said, `we don't care, we just want you on the team,' Wilson said.

He received so much support that he's made it a mission to give something back.
`I learned to respect kids,' Wilson said, `I help them because they helped me.'

Wilson , now 27, lives with his parents In Potomac.

His list of activities is impressive, long enough that he has trouble remembering them all: He is one of the original volunteers at Club Friday, a youth program at the Potomac Community Center, he is a youth soccer instructor for Montgomery Soccer Inc.; he serves on two county recreational advisory boards; he helped found the Potomac Adaptive Basketball Association; he is an active member of the Rotary Club of Potomac, and he founded the annual 5-kilometer race, which benefits Club Friday and the Brain Injury Association of Maryland.

`To me, he's just a super human being,' said Potomac resident Randy Zeibert, whose children played on a soccer team coached by Wilson . `He does all these things and asks nothing in return.'
In the wake of his accident, Wilson made it a personal quest to see Maryland and other states adopt mandatory motorcycle helmet laws. His testimony was a key factor in Maryland's law, which narrowly passed the General Assembly four years ago, said former state Sen. Howard Denis.

Denis said he was wavering on the bill, torn between his desire to prevent devastating injuries and his belief that the government should not place to many restrictions on the public. In the end, Wilson pushed Denis to back the law.

`Doug was a particularly compelling witness because he had lived through it and he was very articulate,' Denis said.

On top of all his other activities, Wilson returned to South Carolina for a semester in 1993 and earned his degree.

`I wasn't supposed to walk again, so I walked,' Wilson said. `I wasn't supposed to go to college and take classes, so I went back and graduated with my best semester in college.'

Despite volunteering at least 50 hours a week,' Wilson has started a business, called `We'll Keep It Clean,' hiring disabled people to clean and maintain people's property; yard work, pool cleaning, and the like.

Disabled people, he said, make excellent workers because. `they're not interested in doing it for the money; they're out there trying to prove they can do it.'

On top of that, Wilson lobbies state lawmakers nationwide to pass motorcycle helmet laws similar to the one he helped pass in Maryland.
`He's just gung-ho about life,' said Sam Eammelli, past president of the Rotary Club. `I think it's great.'

The key, Wilson said, is to set goals high. That way people can fall a little bit short and still do better than anybody else expects.

And his goals remain high.

`Maybe someday,' he said with a twinkle in his eye, `I'm going to try out for an NFL team.'

• [End insert]

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The distinguished majority whip, the Senator from Mississippi, is recognized.

Phone Coach Doug at (301) 983-2690

E-Mail Coach Doug


Did You Know

Family Beach Rentals