A life changed

Andy Phelps tells story of life after accident

EVART — Returning from the Mecosta-Osceola Career Center on Nov. 20, 1998, four 16-year-old Evart High School students excitedly “took air” while driving on 18 Mile Road, near 120th Avenue, in Mecosta County. The car left the roadway and struck a tree. Two of the young passengers died. Andy Phelps, survived. His neck was broken, he was paralyzed, but he survived. Then he struggled. Every day. Every hour. Every second was a stuggle. For months he lived, thrived, lapsed, improved, drifted back and pushed forward in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. With community prayers uplifting the young man and his family, the recovery continued for months and years. Finally, with unflagging determination, Phelps left the hospital, graduated from EHS and began a new life. Years later, he returned to the high school to offer one of the most inspiring commencement address speakers in the school district’s history. Making plans for a new life Today, Phelps lives a productive and enthusiastic life, but remains in a wheelchair. His wheelchair will be a lifelong reality. “Though I eventually regained movement in my arms, my hands and legs remain paralyzed,” he said. “I have not juggled, played hockey or built a single thing out of wood in 14 years.” And that says a lot. On Nov. 19, 1998, Phelps was a skilled juggler, a talented hockey player and a gifted woodworker. One day later that life completely changed and he began a journey imagining, creating, developing and maintaining an entirely new life. This journey has become the focus of a new film documentary short entitled “Juggle and Cut.” “I believe I have a story to tell. Part of the story is told in this documentary,” Phelps said. “This film has already been largely completed. Now, we are exploring ways to get the movie distributed to film festivals and other events on the art circuit.” The director, Caleb Slain, was a 2008 student in a film class Phelps taught at Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Rapids. Slain, a Grand Rapids native, has been internationally recognized for his skilled storytelling in both short films and commercials. At 19, Slain directed “Lost and Found Shop,” for which he received the “Best Young Filmmaker Award” at Corona's Fastnet Festival in Ireland. He later directed the short documentary “It Ain’t Over,” a documentary short on the life of Grand Rapids Pastor Ed Dobson, who retired from a highly-influential ministry following his diagnosis with Lou Gherig’s disease. The short film premiered at the South By Southwest film festival in 2012, and was recently accepted as an entry in the Telluride Film Festival. Slain’s profile documentary on the life of Phelps following his accident is sensitive and moving. “Caleb’s work is incredibly sincere,” said Phelps. “I believe he will become a household name before he’s 30-years old.” The “Juggle and Cut” team are actively raising funds through Kickstarter – an Internet site described as “a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology.” Started in 2009, Kickstarter has raised over $350 million in pledges by people around the globe willing to help fund creative projects. Donors “back” a project and offer support to see it through to fruition. No money is actually collected from pledges until all the money needed has been committed. If the financial goal named in the project isn’t reached, no one is charged. No money is “lost” by any investor since none was actually collected is the goal is not met. To finish the Phelps’ project, a goal of $13,000 was set. To date, nearly half that amount has been raised – $6,015 pledged by 36 backers. There are less than two weeks to go. “I’m hoping we can get people to back this project,” Phelps said. “We have done a lot of work trying to get Caleb’s film ready for the film festival circuit. We will really appreciate any help we can get.” As Phelps works to help bring Slain’s film project to a successful conclusion, he also continues work on his book, “It Never Ends.” “For the past two years I’ve been working on this book,” Phelps reports. “I am about four chapters away from handing the entire work over to my editor. We hope to publish in the spring.” The two projects, the documentary and book, will both benefit from funding through the same Kickstarter drive. To get more information, or to kick in a donation pledge, see