South Charlotte

A blessing to be back for ‘Booty'

When the physical therapists said he could try to walk again, Ted Denning shook his head.

He asked for a stationary bike instead.

Denning, who grew up in south Charlotte, was determined to get back on two wheels, even after a horrific cycling accident that almost killed him. His injuries included a broken pelvis, collapsed lungs and a skull fracture. And he hasn't stopped pedaling since that day almost exactly a year ago.

On July 25, he'll again lead a team in the 24 Hours of Booty cancer fundraiser in Charlotte. It will bring closure to his year of recovery since the accident on Aug. 7, 2007.

“My mentality has been positive through the whole time,” he says. “I haven't allowed anything to put a damper on me.”

Denning, now 21, started cycling during his senior year at Providence High School in 2004. He was inspired to try it after watching the Tour de France. Later, he joined a cycling team at Western Carolina University, and started riding with groups organized by bike shops near campus.

“It's a great sport because of the distances you're able to achieve, and you train on your own schedule without having to go to a training center or facility,” he says. “You can go out your back door and ride down the street.”

Last July, his Catamounts for Cancer team raised almost $2,000 during the 24 Hour of Booty cancer benefit in Charlotte. It was their second “Booty” event together and they rode more than 100 miles each.

The next week, he returned to the mountains and went on a group ride along some back roads. He says overconfidence led to the accident.

“I was feeling really strong after the 24 Hours event and pushing myself too hard to keep up with faster riders,” he says. “There was a bend and I couldn't make it, and I ended up crossing the yellow lines and colliding with a pickup truck coming the other direction.”

When he woke in the hospital, after an 11-day coma, he didn't remember the accident. His last vivid memory was dinner with his team after the “Booty” fundraiser.

His goal during his yearlong recovery was to get well enough to take part in this year's event. Four of the six guys he rode with in 2007 will return with him this year.

Denning says he was a carefree guy without goals and a lazy student before the accident. Now he's driven and focused, and says he is looking forward to returning to Western Carolina full time, possibly next year.

After the accident, he spent several weeks in physical and cognitive therapy at Mission Hospital in Asheville. He then relocated to the Shepherd Center Catastrophic Care Hospital in Atlanta to begin several months of physical and cognitive rehabilitation.

Once his treatment shifted to outpatient, he started volunteering at the center and was eventually hired as a therapy aide, teaching spinal-cord injury patients to walk again. He's also taking evening classes at a community college, trying to catch up on the year he missed.

He has pins and rods in his pelvis and one arm. He's learning to deal with personality changes that have resulted from his brain injury. But he still manages to ride at least 25 miles a day three times every week.

“The accident has been more of a blessing than anything,” he says. “My recovery is ongoing. I don't expect to ever be 100 percent like I was before, but I keep a positive mindset all the time about working with what I have. With riding, nothing holds me back. I can go anywhere.”

He says he'll keep coming back to the 24 Hours of Booty event.

“I have come to realize that my accident was so minuscule in relation to the huge struggle that is undergone by anyone who is immediately affected by cancer,” he says. “Simply being able to apply my passion to a much more important cause such as cancer is an experience that will forever hold a warmth in my heart.”

For more on Ted Denning and to sponsor his 24 Hours of Booty team: www.24hoursof booty.org/goto/teddenning.

When the physical therapists said he could try to walk again, Ted Denning shook his head.

He asked for a stationary bike instead.

Denning, who grew up in south Charlotte, was determined to get back on two wheels, even after a horrific cycling accident that almost killed him. His injuries included a broken pelvis, collapsed lungs and a skull fracture. And he hasn't stopped pedaling since that day almost exactly a year ago.

On July 25, he'll again lead a team in the 24 Hours of Booty cancer fundraiser in Charlotte. It will bring closure to his year of recovery since the accident on Aug. 7, 2007.

“My mentality has been positive through the whole time,” he says. “I haven't allowed anything to put a damper on me.”

Denning, now 21, started cycling during his senior year at Providence High School in 2004. He was inspired to try it after watching the Tour de France. Later, he joined a cycling team at Western Carolina University, and started riding with groups organized by bike shops near campus.

“It's a great sport because of the distances you're able to achieve, and you train on your own schedule without having to go to a training center or facility,” he says. “You can go out your back door and ride down the street.”

Last July, his Catamounts for Cancer team raised almost $2,000 during the 24 Hour of Booty cancer benefit in Charlotte. It was their second “Booty” event together and they rode more than 100 miles each.

The next week, he returned to the mountains and went on a group ride along some back roads. He says overconfidence led to the accident.

“I was feeling really strong after the 24 Hours event and pushing myself too hard to keep up with faster riders,” he says. “There was a bend and I couldn't make it, and I ended up crossing the yellow lines and colliding with a pickup truck coming the other direction.”

When he woke in the hospital, after an 11-day coma, he didn't remember the accident. His last vivid memory was dinner with his team after the “Booty” fundraiser.

His goal during his yearlong recovery was to get well enough to take part in this year's event. Four of the six guys he rode with in 2007 will return with him this year.

Denning says he was a carefree guy without goals and a lazy student before the accident. Now he's driven and focused, and says he is looking forward to returning to Western Carolina full time, possibly next year.

After the accident, he spent several weeks in physical and cognitive therapy at Mission Hospital in Asheville. He then relocated to the Shepherd Center Catastrophic Care Hospital in Atlanta to begin several months of physical and cognitive rehabilitation.

Once his treatment shifted to outpatient, he started volunteering at the center and was eventually hired as a therapy aide, teaching spinal-cord injury patients to walk again. He's also taking evening classes at a community college, trying to catch up on the year he missed.

He has pins and rods in his pelvis and one arm. He's learning to deal with personality changes that have resulted from his brain injury. But he still manages to ride at least 25 miles a day three times every week.

“The accident has been more of a blessing than anything,” he says. “My recovery is ongoing. I don't expect to ever be 100 percent like I was before, but I keep a positive mindset all the time about working with what I have. With riding, nothing holds me back. I can go anywhere.”

He says he'll keep coming back to the 24 Hours of Booty event.

“I have come to realize that my accident was so minuscule in relation to the huge struggle that is undergone by anyone who is immediately affected by cancer,” he says. “Simply being able to apply my passion to a much more important cause such as cancer is an experience that will forever hold a warmth in my heart.”

For more on Ted Denning and to sponsor his 24 Hours of Booty team: www.24hoursof booty.org/goto/teddenning.

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