Ever meet someone you know you'll never forget? Ever hear a story that goes against what you might expect? Ever encounter a person who will forever serve as your inspiration? I did! And that man is Bunk Wurth. While paralyzed, Bunk has never stopped painting. He just had to "learn to do it with his mouth" he told me.
Bunk was always an inspirational, outgoing, good looking guy, great guy. At 6'3" he is an athlete who was on the high school football team, an OC boy who surfed every day, went deep-sea diving, played on a rugby team. He's a good Catholic boy who grew up with his friends from school, Servite high, Cal-State Fullerton. He was a teacher, taught kids with special needs. And he loved art. Did wood carvings, photography, etching and painted the American flag. That was his thing. To paint the American flag. Bunk had relatives in the military, but mostly just loved the flag of his country.
It's that gift that Bunk has been able to still enjoy, despite being paralyzed. His nurse places a special brush in his mouth. Bunk dips the brush into the red, white or blue paint. He moves his head gently from side to side as the brush sweeps the canvas. Even Bunk was surprised at how quickly he was able to pick it back up.
Bunk was 36 years old when his life changed forever. Six years ago, he was playing in a rugby tournament, took a hit to the head and knew instantly "something bad had happened" he said. Bunk was paralyzed. A spinal cord injury left him with no movement from the shoulders down.
My guess, is the average person would be devastated beyond belief. I have a hard time imaging I would handle it as Bunk has.
His motto is "no bad days." That's right. "No bad days." From day one since the accident Bunk has lived with the theory, "I'm still alive. I have my life to live." It's that unexpected philosophy that has friends in awe and inspired and wanting to be around Bunk! As Rana Schirmer says "he's the SAME guy."
I left in awe at the power of those friendships. Those longtime friends came literally rushing to his side. Those who knew construction helped rebuild a room above his parents garage in Orange, CA. Those who knew design helped decorate this single guy's pad. Those who knew cabinetry installed a designer kitchen. There's even an elevator. Most all is donated. As Bunk says "all my friends, just showed up." Each year these best-of-friends hold a golf tournament to raise money for Bunk's astronomical medical bills. 24-hour care alone costs $300,000 a year.
I'll not soon forget Bunk Wurth. He has me appreciating life just a little bit more. Complaining just a bit less. And I'll never look at the American flag the same. Three or four paintings hang in Bunks home. One is framed, another in blocks. They're all his American flag. All were done after the accident. All are a reminder, life is what you make it. As Bunk says "just 'cause you're in a chair doesn't mean you can't do anything."
To learn more about Bunk Wurth, about the annual golf tournament, or to donate go to his website "bunkwurth.org."