In 1992, Haley Scott DeMaria was a freshman and a member of the Notre Dame women’s swim team when the bus carrying the team home from a meet overturned in a snow storm.
The fatal accident left Haley paralyzed from the waist down. After two emergency surgeries, Haley was told she would never walk again. That was not acceptable to this athlete. Days later, drawing on the strength and training she learned as a swimmer, Haley began to wiggle her toes. Over the next several months, Haley endured hours of exhausting physical therapy, painful setbacks, and three additional life-threatening surgeries. Throughout her physical and emotional trials, her family, her teammates, Notre Dame and the Catholic community were invaluable assets to her healing. In October 1993, Haley returned to Notre Dame’s swim team, competing again for the Fighting Irish and winning her first race back.
Mrs. De Maria addressed the entire student body and faculty Tuesday, November 28 th at St. Mary’s High School. Her story teaches that while everyone faces their own personal misfortunes at one point or another, we can overcome tragedy with faith, family, and friends.
Her story is a testament that no one is truly alone, and that even the strongest people need help and support. She learned the hard way that even when you feel alone during a time of isolation or tragedy, you are never truly alone and God’s love will not only surround you, but help you overcome and become even stronger. We can all take that lesson to heart. She is an example of the importance of resilience, hard-work, and optimism that we should follow.
When asked if she wished the accident had never happened, Haley simply responded “no.” She believes that this accident made her an even stronger and better person, and taught her, and all of us, to be grateful for what she has. Her story is not just one of hard-work, dedication, personal inner strength, and overcoming adversity. Her story is also one that proves the necessity of love in everyone’s life; whether it is love of family, love of community, love of any human life, or love of God. Her story is a clear example that God is with all of us, regardless of whether or not we see or acknowledge him, and that prayer is perhaps the most powerful human tool we have.
St. Mary’s Parish, a Catholic congregation served by the Redemptorist Order, includes St. Mary’s Church and St. John Neumann Mission Church. St. Mary's Elementary and High School located in downtown Annapolis, Maryland, serve students in grades Kindergarten through 12. Anchored in faith, rooted in tradition, and committed to excellence, our programs build lifelong learners who are servant leaders.