SPOKANE, Wash. - Ryan Breithaupt believes everyone deserves the same respect and dignity, and works tirelessly to bring the disabled out from the shadows of our society.
He works in the West Central Community Center's Special Education Program, integrating disabled adults into the community.
He says he's always been drawn to people with special needs. He considered being a teacher, but a serious accident 25 years ago derailed his plans.
"I took 7,620 volts of electricity, fell 30 feet, broke my pelvis in five places and died two or three times on Easter of 1989," Ryan said.
He was helping a little boy untangle his kit from a pole when a power line arched through the air and electrocuted him.
The accident sidelined Ryan for several years. He suffered from memory problems, severe depression and other mental issues. Ironically, the feelings of being lost and disabled eventually lead him to enroll in Spokane Falls' Special Ed program. His job at West Central was the first he applied for after graduating.
"This one little lady grabbed me and started - in her own little language - started praying for me. I couldn't really understand her, but when she was finished she said 'amen' and I was just, like, 'Oh my God, I'm staying here. This is it.'"
Ryan believes the one thing that everyone really needs is unconditional love.