Runner plans marathon fundraiser for Shepherd Center

When it comes to beating the odds, Joseph Lopez is something of an expert.

"The first prognosis I had was I wasn’t going to wake up. I had 0% chance to wake up," says the University of Florida graduate and current Colorado resident. "They told me that I would never walk again."​

Back in 2012, a scooter accident left Lopez with a traumatic brain injury; after an 18-day coma, he was sent to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center.

"I had different speech, physical, and occupational therapies for the three months that I was there," Lopez recalls.

He was also wheeled out with other patients to watch the annual Peachtree Road Race that July, an experience which Lopez says completely changed his mindset about rehabilitation.

"At that time I was kind of in a negative headspace, and I was pretty down on myself and down on the fact that I couldn’t walk," he says. "But that race, that day, and seeing former patients come by and shake my hand, it provided me with a little bit of hope. That little bit of belief that I could make it there one day."

And he did. Lopez ran the Peachtree Road Race in 2015 and 2016; during his second year running, Good Day Atlanta interviewed his mother, Gina.

"It’s a miracle," his mom told us then. "Prayers, prayers, prayers. And this place, it’s full of angels. You see the angels just fly around here. It’s a miracle place. Shepherd saved his life."

Now, Joseph Lopez is training for an even longer race. He’s planning to run the first-ever Boulder Marathon — called Boulderthon — in October and has created a GoFundMe page in order to turn the experience into a fundraiser for Shepherd Center.

"The day that I graduated Shepherd Center, that day that I completed my therapy, my mom walked around to every therapist and every volunteer and every doctor and said, ‘He’s going to come back someday. He’s going to come back and he’s going to give back to this hospital in a big way.’ And I’ve always remembered those words. ‘Giving back to the hospital in a big way.’"

If you’d like to help Joseph Lopez reach his goal of $20,000 for Shepherd Center, click over to the GoFundMe page here.

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