During a USDA examination of a facility in Corpus Christi, Kevin was injured in the worst grain elevator accident in Texas history. The explosion, which left ten of his coworkers dead, threw him over 300 feet through the air onto a concrete parking lot. After nearly a year in the hospital, Kevin returned to what was left of his life as a paraplegic. He turned the setback into a success. He became a world champion wheelchair athlete. In 1990 was named ‘the world’s greatest all-around wheelchair athlete’ when he won the pentathlon with a record-breaking performance at the World Track & Field Championships. Kevin established the Wheelchair Success Foundation (WSF), dedicated to providing scholarships to enable people permanently confined to wheelchairs to improve their education.
If you’ve never worked near a grain elevator, it might not sound that dangerous. After all, what could be so risky about a bunch of corn and wheat lying around? As it turns out, quite a bit! You see, the grain dust that collects becomes volatile when it’s heated and compressed. Grain dust is more explosive than dynamite and gasoline and approaches atomic energy based on the tremendous devastation caused by a grain dust explosion.
Kevin Saunders was in a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) building when a series of grain dust explosions ripped through the grain elevator at 1,500 feet per second. These explosions completely destroyed the building, leaving nothing but the concrete foundation. The 2 foot thick concrete walls with reinforced rebar where blown apart like paper and chunks of concrete weighing over a ton were hurled hundreds of feet through the air. When the paramedics arrived, they found his body broken, bent over at his chest. His chest was crushed, and blood and cerebral spinal fluid were oozing out of his nose, ears, and mouth. Doctors did not expect him to survive. He spent over a month in a coma in ICU and almost a year in the hospitals and is now paralyzed from the chest down, confined to a wheelchair.
In 1989 Kevin worked alongside Tom Cruise and Oliver Stone as a principal actor to feature in the major studio release Born on the Fourth of July, an Academy award winning movie directed by Oliver Stone.
Kevin has been featured in over 50 TV commercials promoting fitness, education, health and wellness.
In 1985, Kevin donated a new track to Downs High School and the Waconda Unified School District 272. Kevin had attended Downs High School (now Lakeside High School) and had been on the track team there, training on nothing more than a dirt track. He was convinced that the new track would help the student athletes improve and become more competitive, and just four years later, the Downs High School Track team went on to win their school’s first State Track & Field Championship.
Kevin attended Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas where he earned and an Associate’s Degree in Kinesiology and acting. Notable past students of Del Mar College include Farrah Fawcett, Lou Diamond Phillips and Dabney Coleman. In 2000, Del Mar College selected Kevin to their Wall of Honor as an outstanding Alumnus, and nominated him for the same honor across 1,500 community colleges in America. Kevin was the first and only recipient of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Outstanding Alumni, and recognized in Washington, D.C.
From 1991 to 2005 Kevin Saunders worked with Head Coach Bill Snyder and the Kansas State University football team, where he served as the inspirational coach / motivational coach during what was to later become known as the “Greatest turnaround in college football history.” Kevin came back as the motivational coach when Snyder resumed his duties as head coach in 2009 and he has been working with the team and Coach Snyder since then.
The Kansas State football award was given to many great athletes from 1993 to 2006 many of which went on to have outstanding careers in the NFL.
Kevin was the first Paralympian and person with a disability appointed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports by President George H. W. Bush. He was also the only member re-appointed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports by President Clinton and as a constituent expert by President Bush & the PCPFS & Department of Health & Human Services for a special imitative to improve fitness for children & youth with disabilities.
More recently, Kevin pushed his wheelchair over 2,500 miles across America promoting health and fitness, speaking to schools, students, teachers & administrators about the importance of education for proper nutrition and fitness activities. Kevin and his team were also holding health & fitness summits with the city mayors, state governors, other elected officials, and concerned citizens about getting involved in shaping up their communities and state. Later, he wheeled himself through portions of five countries in Europe serving as an International Ambassador for Health and Fitness encouraging active lifestyles. He is the author of several books including There’s Always a Way, Mission Possible, Conversations on Health & Fitness and most recently, Blueprint for Success and CENTAUR, the first wheelchair action hero comic book. He is currently working on his latest book, Revolutions: Beating the Fitness Crisis in America, One Push at a Time.
As a Paralympian and member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Kevin Saunders has received more than 100 commendations, proclamations and awards for his work to improve health and fitness and education in America and around the world. Kevin has raced in over 500 races around the world winning hundreds of gold medals. Kevin continues to compete and win races today and is also an inspirational speaker and motivational coach who, speaks with passion, about improving safety in the workplace and overcoming adversity. Kevin Saunders also is a school speaker who talks about the importance of staying in school and getting an education, because like Kevin says; “Without an education you’ll be operating with a real handicap.”
He speaks about setting your goals high and overcoming adversity by staying focused on improving every day, inspiring others, and always remembering your long range goals. He stresses audiences that by doing the right thing, you will develop the courage, perseverance, dedication and determination to “never give up” in the pursuit of your personal, team or company goals, that there’s always a way to achieve your goals and much more.
Currently Kevin travels around the world with a compelling message of motivation and hope designed to help people break through barriers, transcend limitations and reach new heights of achievement. He is an in-demand speaker for schools, associations, corporations and other organizations. No matter what the group, he shares the motto that pulled him through his own darkest days: “There’s Always a Way when you Never Give Up!”
Most recently Kevin has been nominated by US Senator Pat Roberts for Chairman for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports under President Obama. Kevin lost that race to Super Bowl champion and New Orleans Quarterback, Drew Brees. Kevin still vows to visit all 50 states promoting health, proper nutrition, and education. Kevin has founded the “Fitness 4 All 50 State Tour” a nonprofit 501-c-3 organization.
- Motivation and Inspiration