Like all young boys who play baseball, Chad Peery dreamed of circling the bases in front of a screaming crowd of adoring fans.
That dream came true for Peery on Saturday night at RedHawks Field in Bricktown. He just never dreamed that he would do it in a wheelchair.
Peery, carrying his two young sons on his lap, took a trip in his motorized wheelchair around the bases at RedHawks Field in Bricktown as thousands gave the Oklahoma City police officer a standing ovation.
His two boys, McKade, 6, and Morgan, 4, high-fived the Oklahoma City and Iowa players who stood along the first- and third-base lines as Peery made the emotional journey from home to home.
“The kids loved it,” Peery said. “It was absolutely amazing.”
Such ceremonies are nothing new for Peery, who has become a hero in the Oklahoma City community, but he never takes them for granted.
“It's always emotional,” he said. “You never get used to it.”
Peery, 34, was paralyzed in a savage beating six months ago but is making a remarkable recovery. He was honored Saturday night by the RedHawks at the ballpark where he loved to work security as an off-duty police officer.
Sports have always been a part of Peery's life, from when he played baseball as a boy to being the gritty fullback and linebacker for Mount St. Mary High School as a teenager to being the doting dad coaching his own kids as an adult.
In fact, some of the lessons Peery learned through sports are motivating him today in his recovery from the violent attack that robbed him of full use of his arms and legs.
Acts of kindness
As an Oklahoma City police officer, Peery often witnessed the worst in people. That certainly was true six months ago on the night he was attacked at a bar and left paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Since that day, Peery has experienced just the opposite. He has seen more good in people in the past six months since his injury than he did in the previous six years of working as a reserve deputy sheriff in Haskell County or as an Oklahoma City police officer.
His faith in people has been renewed.
Like the people who just hand over their money to the Oklahoma City police officers they see on the street, telling them it's for their buddy who is hurt.
Like the people who send $5 and $10 cashier checks to Peery's home with notes attached that read, “I wanted to do something for you but this is all I can afford. I hope it helps.”
Like the strangers who see him in public and just run up and hug him, telling him that they are praying for him.
“He is not only a hero to our family, but I have never seen, and I have lived in Oklahoma City since 1965, I have not seen our community rally around one individual for any single event like this,” said Mike de la Garza, Peery's uncle and retired basketball coach and athletic director at Edmond Memorial High School.
Peery is overwhelmed by the support and tries to make as many public appearances as he is able to show his appreciation.
“I would have never thought in a million years I would have had the support from the community I've had, through the prayers, the cards from all over the United States,” he said. “I've been very blessed. I've had a lot of prayers answered.”
Road to recovery
Peery was off-duty and out of uniform the night of Feb. 15 at Dan O'Brien's Public House in northwest Oklahoma City when a bartender asked him to remove three rowdy customers who twice had tried to start fights.
While Peery was escorting the men from the bar, one grabbed him in a headlock and another started delivering “haymaker” punches to the face, witnesses said. Seconds later, Peery lay beaten outside the bar. His neck was broken.
The three men — Joshua B. Rinken of Norman, Jimmy Dan Smith of Tuttle and Cadmio Antonio Lopez of Tuttle — are charged in Oklahoma County District Court with assault and battery and face a November trial.
Doctors gave Peery little hope for any recovery immediately after the injury.
“They told me if I was lucky, maybe I would have some movement in my arms and that would be it,” he said.
“Realistically, they didn't expect me to have any movement at all below the neck. I've gotten more back in six months than most people ever get back with this type of injury.”
Peery is now standing and wiggling his toes in the aquatic pool “which is amazing,” said Dr. Al Moorad, medical director of the Integris Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital.
When Peery first came to the center, he couldn't feed or dress himself or propel his manual wheelchair, Moorad said.
Now Peery can do all of those things “which is remarkable,” Moorad said. “I did not expect this would happen in this short of a period. It's absolutely beyond what I expected.”
Moorad said the “amazing support” from Peery's family and the community has aided in his recovery