Zackery Paben, the bearded warrior behind the More Hearts Than Scars charity, knows the joy of parenthood all too well. After suffering a horrifying injury that saw him break his radius, ulna and losing the ends of seven of his fingers, his father taught him the principle of caring by showing tough love, something Zackery is very grateful for.
“Michael Mills, one of the Spartan Adaptive Athletes, often kids me about being ‘Dad’ when we race together with the Dirtbags. He fusses at me sometimes for being over protective. However during the cargo net mountain climb from hell at this year’s Sprint in Georgia, he was happy to be on my rope. Before he does the stupid and seemingly impossible; he always checks in with me with a ‘You got me?’. After my ‘I got ya’, he goes on to do things that only the word awesome can convey.
“After I finally returned home from the hospital after my accident, my dad had me do my chores like taking out the trash. My ten year old self made excuses, citing my broken arms and amputated fingertips. He let me know that I was creative and capable enough to figure out how to do it. The first time it took me an hour, after a week it took me 5 minutes.”
“My 25 years of being in the father role for at risk youth has been shaped by this simple concept. Just because you got hurt does not mean you are no longer responsibly to take out the literal and metaphorical trash.
“When our little girl was diagnosed with her heart condition, her mother and I formed More Heart Than Scars to be sure to keep her and us in the right frame of mind. Every day she sees her parents training for upcoming races or making plans to empower others to adapt to their own challenges. When she is old enough to comprehend the challenges of her heart she will have many of Spartan races to reflect upon. Most importantly she has Michael Mills, Todd Love, Amanda Sullivan and Justin Falls as up and personal examples of what it means to have more heart than scars. She also has her dad to tell her that she is creative and capable enough to figure it out… also to take out the trash”, he laughs.
“For me as a dad, I try to train my children to face a hard world with their wits and guts. It is not my job to scurry about trying to make their lives easy. Even in the midst of their challenges I remind them that, “I got you”. I am the father of two daughters, Snowlilly, 4 years old, biological and already a two-time Spartan racer. June, 19 years old, adopted and determined figure things out for herself. I am very fortunate to have had many kids over the years to claim me as their dad.”