Tyson Gentry’s life changed forever on April 14, 2006. In the 10 years since, he has worked to change the lives of others.
Growing up an avid Ohio State fan, his father a Buckeye football player in the 1970s, Gentry’s dream of wearing the scarlet and grey came true when he became a preferred walk-on in 2004. Initially a punter, Gentry earned practice reps at receiver, his position at Perkins High School in nearby Sandusky, Ohio.
In the spring of Gentry’s sophomore year, Ohio State held an instrasquad scrimmage inside Ohio Stadium. During the scrimmage, Gentry caught a pass over the middle and was tackled to the turf by teammate Kurt Coleman. Lying at the 33 yard line, Gentry was unable to move his extremities.
“It took probably less than five seconds for me to realize this was really serious,” Gentry said.
The then 20-year-old had broken his C-4 vertebra, leaving him unable to move. A titanium rod was surgically implanted to stabilize his spine, and in a matter of weeks Gentry was out of the hospital and adjusting to his new life.
Rather than dwell on the freak injury, Gentry gained a new outlook on life during his time in ICU.
“One of the biggest things I’m most thankful for with this injury is perspective,” Gentry said. “When I was doing in-patient rehab at Ohio State, there were individuals on my floor who had TBIs [traumatic brain injuries]. Seeing what they went through and how much more difficult their struggle appeared to be, it put things in perspective for me. What I was going through was difficult, but at the same time, it could be much worse. Others had it worse and still had smiles on their faces. It helped me realize I needed to be upbeat and appreciative of my situation. I’ve always carried that with me.”
Gentry returned to Ohio State in the fall and completed his undergraduate degree in 2009. While in school he met his future wife, Megan, who moved to Seminole, Fla. with him in 2011. He earned his master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Buffalo in 2014 via online classes.
Reflecting on his situation and time in the hospital, Gentry sought ways to help others who endured similar struggles. Grateful for the encouragement he received from family and friends during hospital visits, he hatched the idea to create a non-profit for the families of loved ones who suffered severe injuries. By providing travel and lodging expenses, the non-profit would allow families to continue visiting the hospital and offer much-needed support.
“I pitched the idea to my wife, to help with travel accommodations for family and friends so they can be by the person’s side and lift their spirits,” Gentry said. “We came up with the name New Perspective Foundation because of how important it is to look at things from the right perspective. You’re going through a hard time, but with the right support and right perspective, things can get better.”
Approved for 501 (c) (3) status in late 2014, Gentry and his wife contacted spinal cord units in both Florida and Ohio to spread the word. In a little more than a year the New Perspective Foundation has assisted 10 families by covering the costs associated with visiting patients in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Gentry said he hopes the foundation eventually reaches all 50 states and plans to add two more states to the coverage area this year.
His life may have changed 10 years ago, but it brought about a new perspective for Gentry.
“I would really like to use my injury as a platform to help others,” he said. “I always get a thrill whenever something positive comes from my injury. I feel like that’s what life is all about: using whatever resources, skills or abilities you have to give back to others. I would love to continue to grow this foundation and share my story and hopefully inspire others.”
For more information, visit newperspectivefoundation.org.