Survive, then thrive

By Matias Saari

“I do try to keep a good attitude about things”

Dan Jordan

The fourth-year rifle coach at UAF doesn’t let anything get him down.

“I do try to keep a good attitude about things,” Jordan said from his Patty Center office. “The club itself is just always upbeat and all about helping the youth and the shooting programs and things like that.”

Jordan does more than just attempt to stay positive — he tackles challenges with patience, determination and vigor.

Considering that he is in a wheelchair in one of the harshest environments in the country, there is no shortage of challenges.

He’s become an expert at wheeling around Fairbanks, even through the mud when the spring snow finally melts or through the slush during the first storms of the fall.

The 30-year-old also rides four-wheelers and snowmachines, and paddles canoes and kayaks, usually bringing his wheelchair along for safety.

“I pull my chair up and strap it on the back and away I go,” Jordan said.

He has outfitted his wheelchair with heavy-duty mountain bike tires and inner tubes. For extra stability in rough, woodsy terrain, Jordan built a third wheel to attach in front of the others.

“I do just about everything I want. I can’t think of anything that has ever stuck me,” said Jordan, an avid hunter and fisherman. “Sometimes it may take a little time to figure it out, but I always figure something out.”

Jordan, who is fixing up a house in Fairbanks he bought last year off Farmers Loop Road near the backside of Creamer’s Field, also loves to operate heavy machinery such as bulldozers, excavators, loaders and Bobcats. Those activities must be curtailed or eliminated, however, because they forced a surgery last December that kept him horizontal for six weeks. Jordan accepted that as a side effect of being paralyzed from the waist down.

“I probably won’t be doing too much of that anymore,” Jordan said. “When you don’t have much muscle and fat around your bones, that punishment doesn’t go well.”