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Injured wrestler still fighting through rehab

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Luke Hampton, an Alleghany County wrestler paralyzed after his spine was injured during a match, is now running his own business and training young grapplers. On Sunday, a free concert in Sparta, N.C., will benefit Alleghany Special Olympics in honor of Hampton.

By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
On Dec. 3, 2011, state champion wrestler Luke Hampton was in the ring with his opponent at Hibriten High School in Lenoir during the James Tuttle Invitational, when he tripped during a move and fell head-first into a wall.
The 17-year-old Alleghany High School senior from Sparta, N.C., was airlifted to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where emergency surgery repaired damage to his C5 and C6 vertebra.
The injury left Luke partially paralyzed, only able to move his head and shoulders.
Today, after many trials and hardships, Luke is still working tirelessly to regain full movement of his body. While he is still limited to the same movements, his ability to feel has now extended further down to his chest, according to Benita Hampton, Luke’s mother.
His father is Randy Hampton, and the family has relatives in the Galax area.
“He’s an amazing person,” Benita told The Gazette, noting that she wasn’t just saying that because he was her son, but because of all that she has seen Luke battle through since the accident.
Luke’s aunt, Becky Ward, said the family is also trying to keep a positive outlook about her nephew’s condition. Physical therapy, she said, also is helping him mentally. “It’s really good for him to get him out of that chair and see himself in the mirror moving. It’s good for his spirit.”
Luke uses machines designed to help stimulate movement for paralysis victims during his therapy. “There are harnesses they put him in so that he’s standing upright, and his feet are strapped [to the machine] that simulates walking,” Ward said.
Luke is also successfully weaning himself off of his ventilator, according to his mother. “He’s been doing better off of the vent. That has been a blessing so he can do more exercises, and he’s not tied to a long hose,” she said.
On occasion, Hampton will feel a twinge in his arm, or in one of his fingers or toes. “But they seem to leave as quickly as they come,” said Benita.
As an unfortunate result of his accident, Luke has to take a total of 48 pills each day. “He has nerve pain and muscle spasms, and when he doesn’t take them, his body jerks all the time,” Benita said.
Doctors have explained to Luke’s family that, while his spinal cord isn’t broken, it is slow to heal. “It may be years before we know how much he can recover,” Benita said.
After his accident, “the school came together to support one of its own,” said Alleghany High School Principal Chris Barnes. Students wore their school colors, yellow and green, as a tribute. They printed T-shirts and sold them. Signs began cropping up in town and along roads that proclaimed the collective support and prayers from Luke’s peers.
“The outpouring of support for Luke showed us that we could assist the students in medical crisis in ways we never imagined," Barnes said. The high school has established a fund to assist Luke and two other students with severe medical needs.
Luke’s parents have been touched by their outreach. “Luke goes out all the time, and people tell him that they are encouraged by his determination,” said Benita. “He has touched so many people for the good, changed them for the good.”
Luke is in charge of his own small business, and makes it a practice to hire friends that are having difficulty finding steady jobs. “He will use money from his SSI check to pay them to cut wood, then he sells the wood and gets his money back,” she said.
But, this is the kind of person that Luke has always been, she explained. When he was a teenager, he came to the aid of a friend who had lost his home and belongings in a fire. “He was probably one of the first people who helped him. He took him things he would need, like clothes and shoes,” Benita said. “That is who Luke Hampton is.”
Luke is often seen in Sparta having lunch with family and friends, and during wrestling season he can be found instructing elementary school grapplers from his powered wheelchair. He is looking forward to his friends returning home from school during summer break.
With a mind and a passion for business, he plans to go back to school in the fall for his business degree.
Benita expressed her thanks to The Gazette for what the community has done to support her son and her family.
In continuing with their journey, she only had one request: “Please, just keep praying.”

Marty Raybon to headline LUKEfest2013
SPARTA, N.C. ― Grammy-winning vocalist Marty Raybon will headline an afternoon of musical performances at the 2013 LUKEfest Concert in the Park on Sunday in Sparta, N.C.
This is a free concert held to benefit Alleghany Special Olympics in honor of Luke Hampton, an Alleghany High School athlete who was paralyzed by a spinal cord injury during a wrestling tournament.
Also scheduled to appear are guitar-piano duo Wayne Henderson an Jeff Little, country singer Michael Cosner, Wayne “Elvis” Euliss, Seazuns Pleazuns, the Yates Family Band and Zeke’s All Stars.
All musicians and Sound and Light Productions are donating their time and talent to the event. There is no charge for admission, but donations are appreciated.
Raybon began his music career in the 1980s as lead vocalist for Shenandoah and topped the Billboard charts with hits including “Next to You, Next to Me” and “The Church on Cumberland Road.” His latest album, “The Back Forty”, was released earlier this year.
In case of rain, the event will be held in the Alleghany Auditorium. Concessions are available. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. For more information, visit www.coolsparta.com/lukefest, or call 1-800-372-5473.