Morning Chalk Up Community

Jon Garson: A Man of Integrity

September 14, 2023 by

Pounding headaches and staggered speech were Jon Garson's signal that something was wrong. A trip to the eye doctor validated his concerns. Jon anxiously awaited the neurologist's prognosis. 'You have a 6 cm tumor pressing against your retinal nerve. If we don't operate immediately, it will be lethal.' Jon's life flashed before his eyes. Surgery was scheduled in haste. The large mass was extracted followed by 30 treatments of radiation, blasting the tumor and life as he knew it.

Jon was unable to walk without assistance afterwards. It took a year of intensive therapy and will power for him to regain full use of his legs.

A determined quest for strength brought CrossFit into Jon's life. In 2018, he joined Sin City CrossFit in Las Vegas, Nevada. Garson was humbled watching athletes do things he was unable to do. Surgery and radiation demolished more than the tumor. His body retained the brunt of the impact and movement was limited. Squatting required the support of a 20" box. With dedication and persistence, Jon's abilities improved.

When the CrossFit Games added adaptive divisions in 2020, Jon set the goal to qualify. Initiative was driven by the vision of overcoming the odds and competing at the CrossFit Games. In 2023, Jon's dream came true. He earned one of five spots awarded to multiextremity adaptive athletes. Days prior to boarding the plane to Madison, he withdrew from the competition.

Jon initially accepted the invitation to his first CrossFit Games. At the time, Jon and his wife Kelly were expecting their first child. Jon had a perfect plan. Kelly would give birth with ample time for him to travel to the Games. Flights and hotels were booked. Then, life placed a diaper of a blow out in Jon's way. Kelly's due date changed and the delivery looked as though it could interfere with Jon's departure. If Jon left, he risked missing his son's birth. Jon Garson was faced with a difficult choice, blaze to glory at the CrossFit Games or hold his wife's hand, change diapers, and hold a crying baby. Jon chose the latter. He postponed his dream to remain by his wife's side.

Being present for the birth of my child is most important. Supporting my family during the greatest experience I can have was the obvious choice. Being an adaptive athlete with a condition that can and will deteriorate as I get older, the opportunity to compete in the CrossFit Games may never happen again. However, I am resilient and have always enjoyed pushing myself as far as my body will allow me. Earning a spot to compete in such an event is not guaranteed, but I can always work harder to achieve this goal in future years.

Jon Garson

Integrity is tested when you have two options and you choose the higher path even if it means not everyone will approve. An alternate athlete was not able to fill Jon's spot and he regrets this. To make the right choice, weigh the consequences and decide who's opinion is most important. For Jon, that was Kelly and Archer. His role as father and husband comes first.

Trials, tribulations, and temptations emerge in an instant to divert you away from your end goal and it is not always clear what action to take. True strength of mind is giving up on having your name in lights to see the light in your newborn's eyes.

Q: What was your life like before you met your wife, Kelly? 

A:  A long term relationship brought me to Las Vegas a few years prior to meeting Kelly. My life was bland and I was living with no purpose. I spent time out socializing with gym friends along with the normal 5-6 days of training at Sin City CrossFit. Kelly brought purpose to my life. Meeting right before Covid and the pandemic helped us develop our relationship to what it is now and made me realize that I was ready to commit to marriage and family. 

Jon & Archer

Q:  How did the birth of your son awaken happiness? 

I have always wanted to be a father. The opportunity came at the age of 40 and I realized the time was now.  I knew I was with my life-long partner and I was only getting older. Archer's birth changed my life instantly. The responsibilities that come with fatherhood started the moment I heard his first cry.  Every day since has been a new day with new challenges. Watching him develop into a tiny human being is wild and is the greatest thing I have experienced in my life.

Q: How did your friendship with Kelly transform your life? 

A: Kelly is an amazing person and partner. She is my biggest supporter. Spending every day with her through the pandemic gave us a true appreciation for one another. My life would never be the same without her in it. We share many interests and positively influence each other. Kelly is a wildlife biologist which has given me the ability to deal with desert tortoises and snakes, two animals. I wouldn't have these unique experiences without her. She is very resourceful - uses cloth napkins, reusable items, very in tune with the environment. I am a better person because of her. Now, I don’t go to the store and buy 4 cases of water! 

Q: Did being an uncle prepare you for fatherhood?

A: The responsibilities of an uncle and that of a father are quite different, but I can most certainly say the experience made me sure I was destined to be a father. Being an uncle of 4, soon to be 5 nieces and nephews, has allowed me to experience the joys of children. I was able to get some great experiences from their births such as buying gifts, going out to the park, attending sporting events that prepared me for what I could look forward to as a father. Now the only difference is my son is here to stay and I can’t give him back to anyone - he's all mine!

Jon & best friend, Kelly

Kelly didn't discourage me from going to the CrossFit Games- even if I missed the birth of our son. She knew how much competing meant to me and didn’t want me to miss out on the opportunity. 

Jon Garson

Q: How does family support you in parenthood?  

A: Family is extremely important to me and has been supportive of my transition to fatherhood. We feel blessed. The support Kelly and I have is amazing. This is my first child and it is Kelly's first child as well. Her mother didn’t have any grandchildren until Archer so the excitement is overwhelmingly joyful. Our families help give our son the extra care he needs. We were fortunate to have Kelly’s mother with us for 2 weeks after Archer was born. She is returning for an extended stay which allows me to return to the classroom and resume my role as a math teacher. My mother will also be coming to help as well.

My life changed the moment I had brain surgery and that path led me where I am today. A tumor and brain surgery are not what I wanted but given the love and happiness I have in my life now, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t have experienced any of this if I wasn’t able to get a second chance on life.

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