Until July 10, 2005, Ben Steele was the prototype of a typical teenager: active, healthy and enjoying his pre-20 years to their fullest. In what some may call a freak diving accident, the direction of Ben’s life changed that summer afternoon. According to his family and friends; however, the new direction Ben has been given is a gentle shove they say, from God.

“God is at work here, I wish everyone could witness the power of His hand on our son. While what I thought would be the most difficult part of all of this, the emotional issues, we are constantly assured that God is in control. Gently, the Lord is showing Ben what so many of us take for granted,” Ben’s mother, Kim Flannery, said recently.

According to Carri Flannery, Ben’s aunt, the avenues of communication with Ben are growing and making a difference in his recovery.

“Currently, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago offers carepages for Ben to keep friends updated on his status,” Carri said. “Kim updates the site and has pictures, and the comments are really fueling his recovery. In case anyone is interested, the website to the carepage is www.carepages.com. You have to click on the new visitors and returning members, then create a username and password. There will be a box to search for carepage name, and you can type in Ben Steele. I know that all of the comments so far have made a difference in his day-to-day improvements.”

The storyline of Ben’s accident is tragic: during a summer afternoon swim, Ben dove into a pool at a friend's house and fractured three vertebrae in his neck. He was life-lined to UC hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. He now is completely paralyzed from the neck down. After the accident, Ben spent two months at the University of Cincinnati where he endured two extensive surgeries to stabilize his spine. He was then transferred to the Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati until Sept. 20. Ben is now in Chicago, where he is expected to stay for the next eight to 12 weeks.

“Right now, the amount of energy and determination he puts forth towards maximizing his recovery of function is so impressive. But it's certainly not surprising to all of us who know Ben well,” Kim said. “He's never been one to be afraid of hard work; throughout his high school years he has worked after school at a hardware store, splitting and hauling firewood, and plowing snow-covered parking lots at all hours of the night. During the summers he worked for his father as a stone mason, creating elaborate fireplaces and chimneys, and laying stone flooring. And now, knowing and accepting that his life is changing, he is thinking he may be interested in learning computerized drafting and design. We are so touched by the response of support and prayer, and how God has used this to accomplish so many things, I'm in awe. While it's hard for us to comprehend God's plan, we have faith and trust that He will use Ben for His glory, so that all who know Ben will know the Lord.”

In an effort to assist Kim and Shanon Flannery with medical bills and continued support financially, the other members of the Flannery clan are preparing a benefit supper and silent auction, set to take place from 4-8 p.m. Nov. 5 at the New Salem Lions Club, 4324 E. U.S. 52, Rushville.

“The meal will include pulled pork, side items, dessert and drinks, and the cost is $8 per person,” Carri noted. “All proceeds go to the Ben Steele III benefit fund, and we are also offering contributions at MainSource Bank.”

For advanced ticket purchases, free will donations, or further information, please contact: Gary and April Yager at 765-629-2028, Will and Lisa Flannery 765-932-3321, or Dusty and Carri Flannery at 765-932-5648.

As Ben looks forward to rehabilitating, Kim says that being thankful for life and what the family has been given thus far is most important.

“When Ben considers the other people in this hospital around him, with their health problems, he looks at their young lives, and he thanks God for 17 full, carefree years of life. It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when there always seems to be someone in worse shape than yourself. He talks to them and encourages them, and he prays for each of them.”

Ben also has a voice on the carepage, and sums up his recovery best: “Everything is going good here, more and more improvements everyday. I've been able to improve my arm strength. I'm able to sit up more now with little help. The standing is going better, yesterday I was able to be straight up at 90 degrees. That has been one of my toughest challenges, I had been working up to that all week. I finally received my power wheelchair and I'm able to operate it with my left hand. It rides like a Cadillac compared to the manual chair! My overall health has improved, and I've been off the respirator for three weeks now, I'm coughing on my own now, and sneezing! Thanks so much for visiting my carepage, I truly look forward to hearing from all of you! Love, Ben.”

Rushville Republican Staff Writer Starr Shuppert can be contacted at (765) 932-2222; at P.O. Box 189, Rushville, IN 46173; or at starr.shuppert@cnhimedia.com. You can add a comment to this story by visiting the Website at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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