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Vol. 52, No. 3 • March 2015 • .pdf version
Michigan's Hatch: Most Courageous in so many ways
By DANA O'NEIL
Austin Hatch survived two plane crashes in the span of eight years – the first of which claimed the lives of his mother, older sister and younger brother; the second of which took his father and stepmother.
And yet neither of those tragedies is what makes Hatch courageous. The Michigan freshman is the USBWA Most Courageous Award winner because of how he has lived his life since, fighting to overcome both his own physical hardships and emotional challenges and also embracing his new opportunities.
Rather than be angry at what he has lost, Hatch instead prefers to celebrate what he's been given – a chance to honor his parents by becoming the man they dreamed he would be. Fiercely determined and impossibly positive, Hatch believes he is only beginning to write the story of his life and that the tragedies, while a part of his tale, will one day merely be a footnote.
Hatch was only 8 when the first crash happened. He and his father, Dr. Stephen Hatch, were the lone survivors – Austin surviving largely because his father tossed him away from the wreckage. The two forged a new life together afterward, deciding to celebrate their late family members rather than mourn them.
Eventually, Stephen Hatch remarried. Together with his new wife, Kim, they formed a new family, merging Kim's three children with Austin. In June 2011, the family gathered to celebrate Austin's commitment to the University of Michigan.
The second crash came nine days later. Both Stephen and Kim were killed. Austin survived, but with a traumatic brain injury so severe doctors wondered if he would make it. He spent two months in a coma and many more in intensive rehab, essentially relearning everything.
But every challenge and "can't" that the doctors presented, Austin answered with a "can." By the time he returned to his Fort Wayne, Ind., home in October, he was not just walking; he was climbing the stairs to his second-floor bedroom.
And this fall, just three years after the crash, he enrolled at Michigan, where John Beilein honored his scholarship. In December, he scored his first collegiate point, a free throw against Coppin State.
The lingering effects of the brain injury have slowed Austin's basketball progress some. He's unsure if he ever will be the player he was, but he's not worried. He has bigger goals and new dreams now – to share his story in the hopes that it will help and inspire others and to live the life his parents envisioned for him.
Stephen Hatch challenged Austin to be an uncommon man. He is already well on his way.
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