UPDATE – Dan Parker’s incredible story was featured on the CBS Evening News on April 8, 2022 at part of Steve Hartman’s “On the Road” series. You can watch the story by clicking here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a republication. This story was originally published on Dec. 5, 2017)
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — This week’s News 3 Neighbors story follows the adventures of Jordan High School Parapro Dan Parker. Life was good until he was blindsided by an accident when he was 41. Despite having his metal severely tested, Dan has bounced back to give back.
Dan Parker has had a keen eye for metal working since he was a kid. He took shop at Shaw High School and then put his skills to work after graduation.
“In my 20’s I owned my own machine shop. And then I opened my own business, Parker Chassis, where I built race cars and motorcycles for people all around the country,” says Dan Parker.
Dan has been a familiar face in the Jordan High School machine shop for quite some time.
“I started volunteering at Jordan about four years ago because Jordan is the last, one of the last trade and industrial schools here in Columbus. And we have such a skills gap in America for industrial trade skilled workers,” says Dan.
Just this year Dan was approved to be a paid part-time employee at the high school. Jordan junior Dylan Carter really enjoys learning from his mentor.
“We kind of had that special bond. I knew what he was talking about. He knew what I was talking about. We kind of clicked. And so it made the whole machining, measurements a lot easier,” says Dylan Carter.
For Dan, nothing about teaching is really easy, because he’s 100 percent blind. You’d never know it watching him maneuver on the machinery.
“I’ve had to work hard to prove that I could do it effectively and safe. We have strategies in place to make sure I’m safe, the students are safe,” says Dan.
Dan lost his eyesight doing something he enjoys as much as machine shop, racing cars.
“March 31st, 2012 I had a freak drag racing accident. At 175 mph the car took a hard right turn into the wall, went to tumbling, and just completely broke the car into pieces,” says Dan. Phil: How did you survive? “By the grace of God,” says Dan.
When we awoke out a coma two weeks later, he was banged up and blind, but determined not to let his blindness win. He decided to build a motorcycle.
“In 2013 I became the first blind man to ever race the Bonneville Salt Flats,” says Dan. “My average speed is 62.05 mph, and that’s a two-way average, one mile in each direction.”
In the classroom, Dan uses himself as an example to his students.
“With hard work and ethics and overcoming obstacles, they can accomplish anything. Like I tell them, if a blind man can race a motorcycle on the Bonneville Salt Flats, anything’s possible,” says Dan.
Dan’s next goal is to become the fastest race car drivers in the world. He plans to build an engine for his yellow Corvette and break the 200 mph barrier. To learn more about Dan Parker, visit his Facebook page.