A few years ago, a motivational community member named Harley Draven, reached out to us asking if she could use our company tagline: Earn Your Story™ for her upcoming pageant. We spoke with her about it and instantly agreed. Through volunteer opportunities, and other Trayvax events, we have gotten to know Harley and have decided to share her inspirational story.
Harley has been a generous soul her entire life. At 5 years old she was already helping her mother care for an elderly woman in her town. By the age of 13, she was freely contributing hours of her time to a riding academy for children with disabilities. When her 18th birthday rolled around, Harley was on top of the world. She had a husband, two children, and just signed her first agreement with a modelling gig, soon to begin runway shows and music videos. However, before she had the chance to follow these budding hopes and dreams, her life changed forever on her 19th birthday. “On Monday, June 27th, I dove into a river and hit my head on a rock. The impact was so intense that I not only split my head open, but also broke my neck in 2 places. That night I almost died.” Since that life-altering summer day, Harley has been quadriplegic.
The doctors told Harley that she may never walk again. She refused to believe it, and told the doctors, “You’re not God and I’m not a textbook. I will walk before my 1 year anniversary!” Within one year of deliberation towards her recovery, Harley took her first step. It required a walker and leg braces, but over the next five years, she walked 30 steps.
Tragically, in the aftermath of the accident, Harley suffered from severe depression. Drug use and alcoholism became quick coping mechanisms. The drastic contrast of having the whole world in front of you, to life as a quadriplegic was excruciating. After losing her husband, her horses, her modeling career, and the full function of all four limbs, she believed that even her children would be better off without her. Following multiple attempts of suicide, Harley decided it was time to turn the tide. She made up her mind to quit drinking and taking drugs. “I’d look in a mirror and say, I’m better than that, look at my kids and say, they deserve better than that, and look back into the mirror and repeat I’m better than that.” Harley repeated this everyday for months until she overcame her addictions.
For years now, Harley has been visiting schools as an inspirational speaker. Showing the world that you can overcome tragedy. “I tell people that I don’t live in my chair; I live with it. My chair doesn’t define who I am. I define who I am.” Words have new meaning for Harley. She now defines “disability” as ability and “handicap” as “someone who is handy and occasionally wears a cap.” It’s all about perspective. Where we see the impossible, Harley sees the possible. “On June 27 I’ll celebrate my 23rd anniversary of life (as well as turn 42), and I know that each day I wake I am blessed & I am beautiful. If I didn’t have those attributes, I would not exist!”
Never tell Harley that she can’t do something. When volunteering to build Star Park a few years ago with the Trayvax crew, Harley was carrying tools to help out the team. She joined our company camping trip and didn’t let her chair stop her from hitting the beach. Everyone shared stories around the campfire and took the weekend to truly enjoy life.
Harley won MS Wheelchair Washington USA in 2017 and ran in the national competition. Her campaign began when she became engaged. Harley learned that when someone with a disability marries, they lose food stamps, medical and most of their subsidized income. She is working to spread awareness for the disabled and bring about real change. We are all cheering for her and her cause!