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Lawrence North alum paralyzed decade ago becomes champion bodybuilder

Brad Betts was paralyzed when a tree fell and hit a shed he was in during a storm.

INDIANAPOLIS — Life is full of twists and turns. 

Brad Betts, a 2010 graduate of Lawrence North High School, knows life's changes can come in an instant. Betts took his last steps almost 13 years ago when he was 17 years old.

“I was in my backyard, and I was in my shed during a storm. A tree fell, wind blew it over. It fell through the shed and it landed on a red Craftsman toolbox. The toolbox kept it from hitting me to the ground. It probably would have killed me," Betts said. “I was paralyzed instantly."

But Betts, a pitcher on Lawrence North's baseball team, refused to let his new way of life keep him on the sidelines.

“I do believe things happen for a reason," Betts said. "And if it's not, if there's no reason, if you don't believe that, make a reason.”

So he did, through his love of competition.

“Someone had approached me and was like, 'I see you on the gym working out all the time,' because I would go and workout and play basketball. And they said, 'Have you ever thought about bodybuilding?'" Betts said. “I was like, 'OK, I'll do nationals' and then three or four years of amateur bodybuilding with NPC, and then I won my pro card in 2019.”

It was the start of a blossoming career. Betts will appear in the Wheelchair Bodybuilding Arnold Classic for the fourth time this year. He's also the youngest wheelchair bodybuilder pro and the youngest pro to win a show.

But Betts said his most rewarding work is away from the stage.

“It's bigger than bodybuilding. A lot of this is also to help other people," he said. "I love letting other people know they can do anything they want. They just have to do it a little bit differently. Don't let anybody hold you back.”

He's proof anything is possible, you just have to keep pushing.

“Things don't get easier. You just get tougher," Betts said.