By Kelly Butorac
This past Father’s Day presented an opportunity to give thanks to father figures worldwide. For one Maple Grove family, it was a chance to celebrate a national recognition.
On June 18, Maple Grove resident Steve Laux was awarded the prestigious and honorable “Best Dad on Wheels” award by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a nationwide acknowledgment. Laux is dad to 3-year-old Mackenzie and just-turned 1-year-old twins Devon and Dakota as well as husband to Chau. Kurt Wiger, a staff member at the Courage Center in Minneapolis, nominated him.
“Steve has become a good friend, and to break it down simply, Steve is an amazing dad, whether on wheels or not,” Wiger said.
Accidents happen: In 1998, Laux was camping in Duluth, when he experienced a shallow dive into Lake Superior, an act that would ultimately leave him a quadriplegic for the remainder of his life. With outdoor activities, such as diving and ATV riding, in high popularity during the summer months, accidents resulting in a disability are common. In addition, recreational activities are the most prominent cause of accidents.
“Summer is the peak season of all injuries and males in the 18-25 age range are the number one victim,” Laux said, “It is the luck of the draw how injured your spinal cord is.”
Laux originally graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in engineering and a master’s degree in bio medical engineering. He was brought to Minnesota in 2001. After returning to school to receive a MBA in marketing, Laux found a position at Medtronic in marketing and sales.
Laux’s evening job centers on his life at home, a career that he could not be happier to perform. “It is to take care of my four lovelies at home,” Laux said, “(My favorite moment of the day) is absolutely getting back home from work and having my 3-year-old jump on my lap and give me a hug. It is fun to be able to have her greet me at the door.”
Although his accident occurred over 12 years ago, Laux still faces daily struggles and frustrations. He admits that these lie in the amount of time a morning routine takes and driving accessibility. However, he recognizes that with the assistance of his wife, life is certainly less challenging.
“My wife is a super mom, she puts all of her effort into our children,” Laux said.
At his core, Laux is a family man, making his recent award well deserved. “First and foremost, I absolutely hope that they (his children) stay as healthy as they have been. I hope that disability doesn’t fall on that in any way, shape or form. I am looking for them to persevere any challenges that come their way,” he said.
He is also an avid volunteer and on the Board of Directors for the Courage Center, an organization that strives to support those with disabilities. Currently, he is assisting in the marketing of a program that allows spinal cord injury individuals to get on a treadmill and live a more active lifestyle. It was here that he formed a close friendship with Wiger.
“Once you have had a spinal cord injury, you are in a selective group,” Laux said, “The Courage Center is leading the way.”
The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation (CDRF) hosts an annual nationwide search for the “Best Dad on Wheels” award. Individuals are invited to nominate a friend or family member who they believe is most deserving of the recognition.
“I receive update emails from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and saw that they were taking nominations for the Best Dad on Wheels and entered him, without his knowledge, for fun. Chau, his wife, was aware but just thought it would be fun,” Wiger said.
After narrowing it down to 10 finalists, the Foundation then asks for votes from individuals nationwide for seven days. A few weeks after Wiger spoke with the foundation, he informed Laux of his nomination. Laux and his family began to contact individuals for the voting process, including family, friends, colleagues and past teachers. The winner was crowned the day after Father’s Day, at which point Laux was in the airport flying to San Francisco for work.
“It is absolutely an honor. There was nine other tremendous dads on the list, I am sure I could learn quite a bit from them,” Laux said, “It is a tribute to dads that don’t let their disability slow them down as great parents. I am definitely honored to be in a list under that consideration.”
Laux has been through an extraordinary amount of struggle and strife. However, this does not deter him from becoming a supporter, idol for paralyzed individuals or inspiring father.
“It’s tough. I would say strength and the life that the individual wants to live with comes with time. Patience and perseverance is everything,” he said.
Laux celebrated with his wife and family after he returned home from his trip. For the holiday, he received a form of thanks not only from his own children, but also from individuals across the nation, expressing their support and admiration for a truly remarkable father.