May 15, 2017

ticket to work program male scanning documents into computer

With his booming voice and signature purple or pink polo shirt, Shawn Lovejoy is hard to miss in a crowd. Yet the one thing that makes Shawn stand out even more is his outgoing and uplifting personality.

“I’m basically a happy-go-lucky, positive kind of guy,” said Shawn. “Even though I was dealt a hard blow, I try to make others smile.”

Back in 1988, Shawn was a junior at the University of Minnesota, “loving life on campus,” and hoping to get into the U’s Carlson School of Management so he could fulfill his dream of being a stockbroker. He earned his tuition money selling kids’ books door to door and had money left over to buy a motorcycle.

“I was out one night – just wanted to have some fun,” Shawn remembers. He sped down University Avenue through campus and crashed his cycle. A traumatic brain injury ended his college career and changed his life forever.

“For a few years, I bounced around rehab centers, first recovering, and then trying to work part-time,” he said.

With no plans to get back on a motorcycle, Shawn took up bike riding. He was participating in a three-day racing event when a truck clipped him. “My lower leg was hurt, my shoulder dislocated, and my body mangled — but not my brain that time!”

He came to Rise in 2004 and works in the Connections program at Rise’s Spring Lake Park production facility collecting and recycling cardboard as well as working on a variety of assembly jobs. Shawn also enjoys working in area businesses such as Data Recognition Corp. in Brooklyn Park (shown here) where he helps process educational testing packages.

“I have a really good work ethic and don’t fool around – I get things done to the best of my ability,” Shawn noted proudly. “I enjoy working – it’s fulfilling for me. I don’t want to sit home alone; I like being with other people. I also like to earn money!”

Along with other people served in the Connections program, Shawn has made presentations to local high school students; they speak candidly about how they acquired their brain injuries and how their lives were changed forever. “We hoped the kids could learn from our mistakes,” Shawn said.

Shawn has been known to quote Forrest Gump who famously stated, “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”

He adds his personal take to that sentiment: “My life is tough, but this is what I got, and I’m OK. Life is short so, as Nike says, ‘play hard.’ When I was learning how to be a book salesman, I was taught to believe: ‘I can. I will. I’m going to.’ And that’s how I keep my attitude positive.”

Shawn lives on his own in Plymouth and in his free time, enjoys biking, lifting weights, and socializing. He will turn 50 on July 22, and although he doesn’t have any plans yet for a big birthday celebration, he thinks his parents probably will come up with something special. “As an only child, I’m a spoiled, rotten brat – and I love it!” he added laughing.

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