Indiana Wesleyan University sophomore Mason Metzger’s day begins at 7 a.m. His schedule, like any college student’s, keeps him busy. Only Mason’s routine might look a little different.
“My caregiver stays for about an hour,” Mason explains. “They help me in getting my clothes on and transferring me to the toilet.”
Mason has spastic cerebral palsy.
“My muscles feel like if you were to make a fist and hold it, that’s how my muscles feel most of the time,” he says.
And while Mason is reliant on his friends and caregivers for most daily tasks we take for granted, he’s never let that stop him from living the life he wants to live.
The resident director of Mason’s dormitory, Jason Koh, says, “Mason’s helped me burn a few calories because he goes so fast [in his wheelchair], so I have to keep up a brisk pace when I walk with him.”
Mason’s “Yes I can” attitude is evident from IWU’s student center, to his daily workouts, to his many speaking engagements. He’s currently living out his dream as a motivational speaker.
“Instead of referring to my disability as a disability, I like to call it a ‘specialized challenge,’” Mason tells people. “Because everyone has challenges, but everyone’s challenges are different.”
Since 2014, Mason has delivered his inspiring message to over 50 audiences, including the Indiana House of Representatives. Mason says it’s all about living out his “calling.”
“My mission in life is to inspire and equip all people to be a shining light to the world by sharing my story,” he says.
But Mason’s story of confidence and overcoming began with great uncertainty.
“I was 17, almost 18, when I had Mason,” says Mason’s mother Carissa Metzger. “My husband and I were very young parents.”
“When I came out of my mom, I wasn’t breathing,” Mason says. “So they had to take me away from her and pump oxygen into me. I was so tiny, I could fit into the palm of my dad’s hand.”
After a childhood filled with trips to Riley Children’s Hospital, Mason knew that to feel like a normal kid, he’d have to find ways to assert his independence and find hobbies built to utilize his strengths.
Most of Mason’s physical strength is in his upper body, which made hand cycling a natural fit. When Mason first began cycling, he says he struggled to pedal one mile. Now, his personal record stands at 10.1 miles.
Mason is also a regular out on the lake water skiing. He says the water helps relax his muscles.
Mason’s barrier breaking isn’t restricted to just his hobbies. It’s also very evident in his advocating for accessibility on IWU’s campus.
“And in the process of self advocating for what I need, I’m blazing the trail for other people with specialized challenges,” he says.
IWU’s Director of Accessibility and Accommodation, Sandra Cash, says “Some things that I’d never even thought about, we’ve been able to change because of Mason.”
For example, Mason saw the IWU student center get super busy at lunchtime, while those with wheelchairs struggled to find a place to sit.
“So one of the things I advocated for were these blue stickers,” Mason says proudly, pointing to a blue handicap sticker. “It’s the small details that can have the greatest impact on a student’s experience.”
“Yes I Can” Award Winner
At 7 a.m. February 1, Mason was again busy getting ready for his day. Only that Friday was a special day for Mason. Because that morning in Indianapolis, Mason was recognized for his “Yes I can” attitude with a national award from the Council for Exceptional Children.
Carissa Metzger says she watched the ceremony full of pride. “Seeing Mason walk across the stage today was just a blessing as a mom,” she says.
Mason’s younger sister Avary says she felt pride too. “Seeing my older brother, someone I look up to, get something like that, it makes me want to strive even harder.”
And while Mason says he doesn’t measure his worth by his accomplishments, being recognized with this award lets Mason know that his motivational speeches, his barrier breaking, his self-advocacy, and his “Yes I can” perspective are making a difference.
“It shows me that I’m doing what God has called me to do,” Mason says. “And it makes the tough days that I have worth it.”