Eric Lantz Voted Reeve Foundation 2011 Best Dad on Wheels
Eric Lantz, 40, of Houston, Texas, is thrilled to be named the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation's 2011 Best Dad on Wheels. At 18-years-old, Eric assumed he would ever have the opportunity to even be a father when he was involved in a car accident that changed his life.
"Dads in wheelchairs, in general, automatically have more appreciation for being in a dad," says Eric, living with a T5 complete spinal cord injury. "We don't take as many things for granted compared to people who haven't been through this kind of experience."
Having had such a life altering experience, Eric says, "I appreciate being a dad more because of my injury not necessarily in spite of it."
This is the second year the Reeve Foundation has held the Best Dad on Wheels Contest. Community members nominated their best dad, and from that long list, Reeve Foundation staff pick the top 10 to be voted on by the online community. Over 3,000 people voted in just one week in what turned out to be a very tight race.
Being a dad allows Eric to connect much more at his job, too. As an occupational therapist at TIRR Memorial Herman, Eric is able to both help his patients and learn from them.
"There are certain things that I have to be more creative about," says Eric of the challenges of teaching his daughter, Alyssa, age four, how to play soccer and swim. "But that's part of being an OT; breaking down and teaching her how to do things a different way. It's kind of what I do every day at work, just break down activities, figuring out how to get the job done."
Aside from being able to apply what he does at work at home, Eric is able to carry his experiences to his patients. "And being a dad too, that's just a whole other thing I can share with my patients," says Eric. "Figuring out in a wheelchair how to change a diaper, how to give a baby a bath, all that stuff."
Eric's wife, Brenda, and his coworkers nominated him for the Best Dad on Wheels Contest, but best of all was Alyssa's ability to hide it from her dad.
"I learned my daughter is real good at keeping a secret," jokes Eric. "She knew about this way before I did!" After discovering Eric was part of the top ten finalists, Alyssa told him: "Dad, we put you into vote for the best dad talent contest!"
So, what does Alyssa love most about her dad? "She says that she thinks it's great that I'm in a wheelchair," explains Eric, "because she always has a lap to sit on wherever we go."
Most of all, our 2011 Best Dad on Wheels winner says, "I try not to let the wheelchair be a limiting factor on what she experiences in her life."