Andrew Sullens has served in the United States military for seven years, four of which he served as a 3rd Class Petty Officer in the US Navy and three as an infantry solider in the GA Army National Guard. He enlisted in 2003 and completed his basic training in Great Lakes, IL. While in the navy, Andrew served 18 months in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba providing security, and finished out his enlistment as a Close Quarters combat instructor in San Diego, Ca. After his enlistment in the Navy, Andrew returned to his home town of Dahlonega, GA and began working with the Lumpkin County Sherriff’s office. He worked as a detention officer for one year and then started Basic Law Enforcement Mandate Training in March of 2008. He graduated the program in June of 2008 and was promoted to the Uniform Patrol Division. While working for Lumpkin County, he decided that his duty as a solider was not yet over. He decided to enlist again, but this time with the GA Army National Guard, and was assigned to the 1-108th RSTA unit stationed in Dalton, GA. In April of 2009 his unit was activated and deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. While Andrew was in Afghanistan, his team was returning from a combat mission and their convoy was hit by and IED that was embedded in a culvert underneath the roadway. Andrew was ejected from the gun turret and suffered a laundry list of injuries. He was taken to Walter Reed Medical Army Center in Washington, DC to recover and then on to Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Hospital in Augusta, GA. He was medically retired from the Army in April of 2010 and shortly thereafter returned to work for the Lumpkin Co. Sherriff’s office. He continued to work for UPD and then became part of the SWAT team in September 2010. Shortly after becoming a member of the SWAT team his right ankle began to succumb to its injuries. Andrew found himself unable to keep up with the high stress and physical demands of being a Patrol Deputy and SWAT Operator and made the crucial decision to have his right leg amputated below the knee in February 2011. Andrew decided to not let the amputation slow him down and started getting involved with Catalyst Sports. One of Andrews biggest accomplishments thus far was on 9/11/12 when he summited the Grand Teton with Catalyst Sports. He continues to climb with Catalyst and has plans to spend some time out in yosemite this year climbing on the big walls.
Carly Pearson, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, was working as a wild land fire fighter for the National Parks service. In 2002, when deployed to work a fire in Oregon, she tripped and fell 25ft down a ravine into the Rogue River, Carly crashed into rocks, causing her to break her T12/L1 vertebra, which left her paralyzed from the waist down. While recovering, she found her situation hopeless saying “for years I thought there was no life beyond rehab”. Solace finally came in the form of adaptive sports. She felt alive again. She began competing in snow skiing and progressed to triathlons and cycling. Rock climbing was a sport Carly had yet to tackle. On March 23rd she faced the challenge of climbing the 50ft wall at Stone Summit. When asked what was going through her mind while attempting this feat she replied, “I kept saying to myself, I’m getting to the top!” With her seven year old cheering her on “go mommy, don’t give up” she made it to the top. Though Carly’s story is unique, she is one of many who have overcome physical challenges to prove that life can be redefined and the impossible, possible. She is an inspiring example of courage, determination, and perseverance. According to research published by the international medical society of paraplegia, participation in sport and recreation activities decreases from 84% pre-injury to 47% post injury, with the most frequently reported reason was being poor wheelchair access. Catalyst is continuing to work on breaking down those barriers as experienced by Carly at our March event.