Rodeo rider bucks learning disabilities – Fox medal
Note: The Terry Fox gold medal will be presented to Casey Ruff on Wednesday, Sept 21 at 11:40 a.m. by the Fox statue (Burnaby campus) located east of the AQ pond, prior to SFU’s own Terry Fox run/walk at 12 noon (happening at all three campuses).
When a horse bucked off rodeo rider Casey Ruff in 2001 and crushed his face with its hoof, it was the culmination of years of physical and emotional suffering endured by the Calgary native.
“I used to be good looking,” jokes Ruff, 32, now a Simon Fraser University student, who was blinded in his right eye from the incident and required major reconstructive surgery to rebuild his nose, cheek and eye socket.
But it was a succession of brain traumas beginning at age two with a brutal assault by his biological father that left him with significant, undiagnosed learning disabilities.
“I haven’t had a normal life,” says Ruff, winner of SFU’s 2011 Terry Fox gold medal for exemplifying the courage in adversity and dedication to society, as embodied by Fox and his Marathon of Hope.
After a childhood of abuse and neglect, Ruff’s mother abandoned him at age 14, leaving him and his two brothers, aged 12 and 17, to fend for themselves.
The kids split up and Ruff struggled for years on his own. But he finished high school and got a job in Banff as a horse wrangler. That led to a career on the rodeo circuit, supplemented by welding work and punctuated with two failed university attempts.
Ruff’s 2001 accident rehabilitation sparked his interest in physiotherapy, which guided him to college in Prince George and SFU in 2005 as a kinesiology major.
And it was at SFU that he was finally tested and diagnosed with disabilities in processing information, reading, expression and math. The diagnosis qualified him for government services including software to help him read faster and a note taker to write his notes in class.
Now in his fifth year, living in residence at SFU with his wife Jordanne and two young daughters, Ruff is riding an almost straight-A average while volunteering as an athletic trainer for various organizations and events.
“The most important thing I have gathered from my challenges is to persevere,” he says. “Because in the end I am who I choose to be — either a bitter and beaten man or an accomplished one.”
Ruff also recently received a Coast Capital Savings 2011 Standing Tall award, given to individuals who are working hard to overcome personal challenges to reach their dreams.