MUSCATINE, Iowa–At 18-years-old, Luther College student Chris Norton’s life changed instantly when a football play gone wrong caused a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Determined to walk again despite a prognosis that he had only a 3% chance of regaining feeling and movement in his lower body, Norton completed intensive daily physical therapy to allow him to walk across the stage at his college graduation and down the seven yard long aisle at his wedding, both with the help of his now wife, Emily Norton nee Summers, a Muscatine native.
A recent documentary, “Seven Yards” tells the story of how the pair persevered to make their wedding day goal a success and how they have gone on to continue making a positive impact in the world through the Chris Norton Foundation and encouraging people to serve as foster parents.
Reflecting on the experience of making the documentary, Chris Norton shared that though it felt nerve wracking at times, he ultimately hopes it inspires others to find hope even in the most difficult times: “This film is coming out at the perfect time. The world is experiencing such uncertainty and heartbreak, and people need an inspiration,” he said.
Chris and Emily Norton also appreciated the light the film shed both on the Chris Norton Foundation and the need for foster parents.
As Chris Norton underwent treatment for his spinal cord injury, he felt very thankful that the special risk insurance he carried because he played football covered the cost of his care. However, he saw many determined people who could not pursue their treatment to the extent he did because they could not afford it. Wanting to help other people receive the highest level of care possible, Chris Norton and his family started the Chris Norton Foundation, which raises money to purchase specialized equipment for people with neurological conditions and brain and spinal cord injuries. The foundation also holds an annual all expense paid summer camp for children who use wheelchairs and their families. The experience allows them to engage in a variety of activities adapted to their specific needs.
While a student at Muscatine High School, Emily Norton developed a passion for helping foster children. While tutoring Whittley, a Franklin Elementary student, through a program organized by the Muscatine Police Department, Emily Norton saw first hand the difficulties foster children face when moved from home to home frequently. “It was just crazy for me to see that, especially coming from such a loving and supportive family,” she remembered.
Even after Emily Norton graduated from high school and went to college, Whittley stayed in touch. At the age of 17 and without anywhere to go, Whittley contacted Chris and Emily Norton shortly after their wedding and asked if they could foster her. They welcomed her into their home in Florida and not long afterwards adopted her. Whittley became the first of their five adopted daughters as well as the first of the 18 children they have fostered so far.
“Seven Yards” debuted Feb. 24 and viewers may now stream it on Amazon Prime Video, VUDU, Google Play, and Vimeo On Demand.” They may also purchase DVDs from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, and Target.