“I have a passion for life – just give me a challenge and I’ll do it.” Those are the words of Dan Iagatta, a successful entrepreneur and paramedic for the local fire department in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Dan is also an avid photographer, sportsman, nutrition enthusiast, and pilot.
On April 10, 2004, Dan was out for a training ride on his bike, in preparation for an upcoming triathlon. He was traveling at 32 miles per hour when a car emerged from a side street and struck him. At 40 years old, Dan’s world as he knew it came crashing down and he knew almost immediately that he had lost all feeling below his chest. Shortly thereafter, he was flown out to Craig Hospital in Colorado where he underwent three months of treatment to begin his recovery.
“Paralysis is amazing – you don’t go through it, your whole family goes through it,” says Dan. During the recovery process, Dan went through a painful divorce during which he lost custody of his kids and his childhood home. “If it had not been for my religion, I would have had not had a desire to do anything,” reflects Dan. It took about five years for him to come to terms with the accident and his new life. He says his father was his true hero. “He always pushed me to have a game plan and taught me the importance of setting goals,” says Dan. Learning to set new goals and challenges for himself was critical to Dan’s recovery.
Today, Dan has a life full of new goals and challenges. In 2007, he got his driver’s license, which was a turning point in his recovery. “It felt like my disability virtually disappeared when I was able to drive again,” he says. With his new mobility, Dan recently finished a master’s degree in vocational education and teaches adult photography classes. He was elected for the high school committee at his alma mater and teaches CCD classes at his local church. Driving also enables him to participate in a number of volunteer projects and advocacy programs. He drives for the Meals on Wheels program, sits on the local disability committee, and drives for a program that provides transport for disabled or elderly people. Furthermore, he received an Outstanding Achievement Award for his contribution to the Easter Seals Disability Service.
Dan recently replaced his old wheelchair; however the new version no longer fit into his van. Faced with the prospect of losing his ability to drive, Dan applied for and received a $3,000 grant from the Travis Roy Foundation for van modifications to accommodate the new wheelchair. He was able to keep driving and donate his old chair to someone with MS that was in dire need of a wheelchair.
Dan emphasizes that the Travis Roy Foundation is not just impacting the lives of individual grant recipients. “The Foundation gives a hand up to those in need. When you receive a hand up, it moves you forward and you can help others, causing a ripple effect. That is what the Travis Roy Foundation, and its supporters, are doing – creating a ripple effect.”