Nine years to the day after his life-changing accident that left him quadriplegic, Mitchell Benson had a sigh of relief. On May 26, he started his internship at Creative Care for Reaching Independence located in Moorhead.
“It was kind of poetic I guess to start having something good on the day that went bad,” Benson said.
The 32-year-old couldn’t handle having all the free time after his accident. He explained it as a kid that has free time and endless possibilities; it gets boring as time passes.
Benson spent 10 months at Courage Center rehab facility in Plymouth, Minn., where learned how to navigate his world from a wheelchair and use his computer with voice recognition. He knew he needed to take a new career path since he wasn’t able to use his automotive technician degree.
A year after his accident that left him unable to move from his shoulders down, Benson moved to CCRI and planned to enroll at North Dakota State University.
“Honestly, I wasn’t the most studious student before,” Benson said with a chuckle. “I had plenty of free time so I had no excuse to not get good grades this time.”
It’s difficult for anyone to bounce back after a life-threating accident, but Benson graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2014 and wants to continue to work at CCRI once his internship is complete.
“It’s crazy to see what Mitch has gone through and hear the stories and how positive he is,” said Dana Bungert, one of his caregivers, who has been with him for a little over three years.
CCRI has Benson attending administrative meetings, researching fundraising opportunities and developing a couple department projects. Occasionally he participates in a few public speaking engagements.
“I really like what I’m doing,” Benson said. “It gives me the opportunity to help others and you kind of stay humbled by seeing all the different adversities that other people have to go through, so I don’t really have to feel that mine is more or less than someone else’s challenges.”[/text_output]
[image type=”none” float=”none” link=”true” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3769″ alt=”Mitchell Benson”]
[image type=”none” float=”none” link=”true” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3770″ alt=”Mitchell Benson”]
[image type=”none” float=”none” link=”true” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3771″ alt=”Mitchell Benson”]
[text_output]But Benson wouldn’t be living and working at CCRI if it wasn’t for a run-in with former Bison football player Matt Gratzek.
Gratzek, who is younger than Benson and knew him from Stephen-Argyle Central High School, was redshirting for the Bison in 2006 while Benson was at the Courage Center. When a family friend of Benson’s offered him tickets to watch the Bison play the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Twin Cities, he couldn’t pass it up. After experiencing the electric Bison atmosphere, he was hooked on Bison Pride.
“The funny thing is that I grew up in UND country,” Benson said with his Bison sweatshirt on. “It was my first experience with the Bison and just wearing the green and gold, everybody was coming up to me and telling me that they were glad I could make the trip and everybody was so nice. I was just hooked as soon as I got back, I needed to find a way to go to more games and I moved up to Moorhead and started going to the games and thought, ‘I want to go to (college) here at NDSU.’”
Benson has been a season ticket holder since 2008 and made it down to Frisco for the 2015 FCS Championship game. But without the help Bungert, his caregiver, and his parents there would be no way the trip could’ve been possible.
Benson believes a fifth straight national championship is within reach for the Bison this season. “With the environment we have and the winning culture, I don’t doubt it. I’d like to see five… definitely be planning a trip to Frisco again.”
Benson doesn’t have definitive plans for his future but is expecting to make another trip to Frisco. He’s also beginning his motivational speaking gig, but it’s still in its beginning phases. “I don’t have the biggest or the most defined goals for the future,” Benson said. “Just to not let anything to stop me from trying, and I would say my possibilities are still limitless.”[/text_output]