In 1992, Haley Scott DeMaria was a freshman and a member of the University of Notre Dame women’s swim team when the bus carrying the team home from a meet overturned in a snow storm. The fatal accident left Haley paralyzed from the waist down. After two emergency surgeries, Haley was told she would never walk again. That was not acceptable to this athlete. Over the next several months, Haley endured hours of exhausting physical therapy, painful setbacks, and three additional life-threatening surgeries. Throughout her physical and emotional trials, her family, her teammates, Notre Dame and the Catholic community were invaluable assets to her healing. In October 1993, Haley walked back onto the pool deck and returned to Notre Dame’s swim team, competing again for the Fighting Irish and winning her first race back.
Beginning with the lessons she learned as an age-group swimmer and growing up in a highly competitive family, Haley shares the foundations of her childhood that led her, as a non-Catholic, to attend the University of Notre Dame. When tragedy struck the women's swim team during her freshman year, her entire world, all she believed and everything she knew, was challenged. And yet, she survived and thrived because of the Catholic community of faith that embraced her and her family. While the physical challenges were unimaginable, the emotional and spiritual challenges were much harder.
In Haley's words: Tragedy is an unlikely event that changes your life forever. Until I realized this, I wasn't able to fully heal. If I was going to live a healthy and happy life, I had to stop waiting for my life to return to normal. After my comeback to collegiate competition, my physical healing was as complete as possible, but my emotional and spiritual journeys were just beginning.
There are several stories woven together that complete my life today. It is the story of a young girl who fights for her life, and then for her dreams, and then for her life's happiness. It is the story of family - both the one to whom I was born, and the one created around me as I faced my greatest life challenge. It is the story of my faith, which was not yet defined at the start, but that was shaped by the goodness of others. It is a story that has already touched the lives of those whom I have met, and a journey of faith that needs to be shared with as many as possible.
Journey of Faith and Triumph – The subtitle of Haley’s book, “What Though the Odds – Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph,” Haley explores the role of faith in one’s life. Beginning with a faith that was not well defined as a child, Haley chronicles the need for a belief and support system during times of need, and how to develop and build that support system. This ecumenical talk will inspire others to believe in themselves, in the power of prayer and in the strength of a faith-filled community.
Swimming Back from Paralysis – Story of Haley’s remarkable journey. Beginning with the lessons she learned as a young age-group swimmer, Haley chronicles her journey as told in her book, “What Though the Odds – Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph,” including paralysis, six back operations, struggling to walk again, and the role swimming, her teammates and her family played in her recovery. Additionally, in exploring the key lessons that helped prepare her for her great life challenge, such as “Love what you do,” “Caring for others,” and the “Desire to work hard;" Haley shares how coaches and teammates have the power to influence and teach life’s lessons.
From Athlete to Author – Haley shares her inspiring story and applies the lessons she has learned to real life. Beginning with the skills she developed as an age-group swimmer, Haley chronicles her journey as told in her book, “What Though the Odds – Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph,” including paralysis, six back operations, struggling to walk again, and the role swimming, her coaches and her family played in her recovery. While exploring her journey from collegiate athlete to author, Haley shares how to look within ourselves to find our gifts and strengths, and use them both professionally and for the good of others.
Journey Through Tragedy - Haley shares her journey through tragedy to inspire others to survive their own life challenges. “Tragedy is something that changes your life forever,” explains Haley, as she details how – 20 years after a tragic bus accident killed two of her college teammates and left her with a broken back and a prognosis of paralysis – she is thankful for the lessons she has learned as tragedy has shaped her life in positive ways.