In 2002, Larry Woody was heading toward Eugene, Oregon when the driver of an oncoming tractor-trailer lost control of his rig. Woody's Toyota Celica was no match; the accident broke his back and shattered bones in his face. Seven hours of surgery closed the wounds and set the bones - but doctors weren't able to restore his sight. Suddenly, the everyday activities the then 42-year-old had taken for granted weren't so routine anymore.
Woody had spent decades fixing, racing and restoring cars - and being sightless was no reason to stop tinkering. "So much of it is done by feel anyway," he says. "I just use my hands to see what I'm doing now." He opened his own place, D&D Automotive, in Cottage Grove, Oregon, a quiet town with a population of less than 10,000. A town that needs mentors like Woody.
Down the road from Woody's shop, Cottage Grove High School instituted a School to Work program that matches students with local community mentors. One of the school's first calls was to Woody. "Not every student is meant to spend years in college," he says. "If I can do something to help while they're in high school, it offers them direction and a little bit of experience."
And a little bit of inspiration. Woody's first apprentice was a 17-year-old named Otto Shima - who was deaf. "He's just another student, and I'm just another guy trying to help him," Woody says. Last year, a girl named Scarlett Fulton spent three months at the shop learning the trade, and soon a new student will arrive. "It's a small town, so everyone heard about the accident," says Denise Beauchamp, who oversees the program. "Being paired with Larry is empowering for these students, because often they're struggling in their own ways."
~Article from Popular Mechanics, August 2010