LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A race this weekend on this campus of the University of Kansas will raise money for students with disabilities. The race is being organized by the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Freshman pledge Tom Babb was paralyzed from the neck down during a Winter Break vacation.
“He was really looking forward to the trip, he was really excited. Who wouldn’t be to go to Hawaii,” Babb's roommate Will DeVries said.
“To think that a wave took him down in Hawaii and paralyzed him from the neck down I couldn’t imagine it,” Babb's pledge father John Killen Jr. said.
The tragic accident happened as Babb simply jumped in the ocean just over a month before initiation at Beta Theta Pi. When it became apparent there was no way he would be able to make it to Lawrence, his brothers took that initiation to Colorado where he was rehabilitating with family.
"I don’t think there was a single dry cheek there, it was very very emotional,” Joe Simmons said.
In the two months since, Babb has learned to control his specialized wheelchair with a straw. As he works to regain the use of his hands, his fraternity brothers have been working on some things of their own.
“I’m hoping to live in my fraternity, they are actually making renovations so I can live in the house which is a pretty cool deal,” Babb said.
All renovations will likely have to be done to the back of the building since it is on the National Register of Historic places. They hope to create a first floor bedroom and accessible shower.
Beta Theta Pi brothers say Tom’s tragedy has opened their eyes to the struggles other disabled students face on campus.
They’ve planned a Tom Strong 5K race, walk and roll Sunday to raise money for a scholarship in Babb’s name. It would help disabled KU students with full-time professional care.
“This is the diamond in the rough that will helpfully shine over all of those events that show the world as a Greek community we can do good,” Killen said.
The race will take place Sunday April 24th at 9 am starting at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.