Werry: Sometimes you have to climb
Rick Werry is a motivational speaker who returned to his hometown to give a talk at his alma mater, Union High School, and at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building in Myton.
Growing up on the family dairy farm in Myton taught Werry the benefits of hard work. His family and church family would teach him about faith, service to others and morality. Those skills and determination to finish what he started would benefit Werry later in life, especially during the inevitable “why me” moments he would later experience after an event that changed his path in life.
Werry’s story can’t really be told without at least touching on the construction accident that broke his neck, turning him into a quadriplegic overnight, and the time he spent in rehab learning to adjust to his new normal.
In his book, “Red Letter Days,” Werry writes about a nurse at the rehab unit that came into his hospital room one day with a red Sharpie pen and a calendar. Days had turned into weeks and Werry was despondent.
His nurse saw that he was upset and sat down beside him. Her words of encouragement were pivotal to his recovery.
She told him to stop feeling sorry for himself and told him to tell the staff to write down on the calendar every day he did something that he couldn’t do the day before. That was the birth of the “Red Letter Days,” celebrating life’s accomplishments, no matter how small, day after day.
Before the accident that changed his life forever, Werry was a plumber’s assistant. That was no longer an option for him, so he approached his new life with the same determination that had served him well his entire life.
He joined up with Career Exploration Services and Vocational Rehabilitation. With their guidance and job training, Werry was able to transition to a soil conservation technician with the US Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service. That was another Red Letter Day.
“I’m a tech at the NRCS. NRCS works with farmers and ranchers. I grew up on the farm so it’s kind of good to still be in that realm.” Werry said.
Sometimes life has a way of circling back.
“I’m in a wheelchair and I need a lot of help from people and sometimes I feel like it’s hard to give back,” said Werry, “but I feel like this speaking and sharing my story is kind of one way of giving back and helping friends and family.”
Werry believes he gets to be part of something larger than himself, which helps humanity, by sharing his story.
Werry is in the process of turning his book, “Red Letter Days,” into an audio book. He talked about the process, which includes hiring the person who will be narrating the audio book.
One of the samples that Werry put out for voice actors to read was the chapter 6 paragraph titled, “We Ride at Dawn.”
“I’ve gotten a whole bunch of auditions back of people really excited to be the voice of my book and you know I have a lot of good feedback from that chapter,” Werry said. “They liked the descriptiveness of when I’m riding below the hill and the detail that I put into it. It blew me away.
“There’s like 90 people that have auditioned to be the voice of my book and it’s interesting because I’m torn between trying to find someone that sounds the most like me or finding someone who’s the most entertaining to listen to.
“Cycling is always been a good place to go and escape from my problems and just a spot where I can think with a level head, and also it’s one spot where every once in a while, when I’ll ride by myself, I’ll just be thinking of what my next move is. I’ve logged a lot of hours just practice writing my book or practicing my speeches from the seat of my wheelchair or the seat of my handcycle.”
Sports have always been important in Werry’s life. While he was doing physical therapy in Salt Lake there was a poster in the in the physical therapy office with a picture about Abe Lincoln pointing at you, saying, “We want you for wheelchair rugby,” and it really intrigued him.
“I went home and watched a documentary called murder ball which was about the origins of the sport and I got really hooked on it.” Werry said.
Werry showed up to the first practice.
“It’s become a really great avenue for me to not only meet new people, but also to kind of see the USA.” Werry said.
Werry has traveled with the Vegas Invasion wheelchair rugby team as far east as Kansas City, all over the west, and is looking forward to going to a tournament next month in Dallas.
He said it’s more fun the second time around when it comes to sports and his two young sons.
“I always thought before becoming a father, that there’d be times and moments where my physical limitations would really interfere with my duties as a dad,” Werry said. “But I kind of relearned a lot of ways to do things and I’m very active with my kids and I like to teach them all I can about what I’ve learned in sports and then I like to play with them. To be honest, it’s one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes we modify the game a little bit so that I can play, but it’s just a great joy in my life.”
Werry credits his wife, Tara, with much of his success.
“She is a sweetheart and I owe so much to her for all that she’s done for me,” he said. “I couldn’t have made it this far in my life without her. It is just as much her story as it is mine.”
“A lot of people would ask me to speak about trials at firesides and at my church, and I used to get real tired of speaking about trials because that was always the same topic and of course I’ve had trials in my life, that’s evident,” Werry said.
He added that after giving a presentation to a group of young girls, he got a lot of feedback from the young ladies. Their leader came up to him after and said, ”You should write a book.”
“That was the first time anybody had said that to me,” Werry said.
It gave him a different perspective, and he realized that his story needed to be heard by as many people as possible.
Werry has always been a storyteller, and he thought, “What better way to tell my stories than to write a book.”
“I just want my story to get out there to as many people as possible,” said Werry.
Werry’s main concept with the book is to invite readers to try something today that they couldn’t do yesterday. Sometimes it will take you outside of your comfort zone.
His recent trip back to Roosevelt was out of his comfort zone.
“I had car troubles trying to get out there, the weather getting out there was very scary going up over Daniels Canyon,” he said.
But he did it, another Red Letter Day.
“Superintendent Dave Brotherson and Frank Gilman also helped line me up for those speaking jobs and it was an honor to speak in front of them, mostly because when I was growing up, they were people who I looked up to,” Werry said. “It’s sure been an exciting ride, writing the book and speaking more and more. I still get nervous every time I speak, but that’s just part of the part of the game. What I’m learning is the more you prepare the better you do.”
Werry’s message works on different levels. It’s not just for people with disabilities, it applies to anyone who is struggling.
For more information go to www.redletterdays.net to schedule Werry for speaking jobs, or to purchase his book. You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook.
Writer’s note: I had come to cover the talk Werry was giving that night. Unfortunately, life had other plans. My son had a seizure in the church parking lot right before the presentation so I couldn’t attend.
Unsure of how I would be able to get the story, I approached Werry to introduce myself and ask if he would be available for an interview later, and explained why I couldn’t stick around.
Werry had me follow him to the box of books he had brought and asked me to grab a book and the red Sharpie pen inside the box. He wrote a personal note to my son, who is confined to a wheelchair.
The significance of that moment would become clear to me later.