On the afternoon of December 27th, 2015, the Alpha Nu chapter of Beta Theta Pi was overcome by terrible news. One of their own, Tom Babb, was the victim of a terrible accident on the beach in Hawaii, where he was spending winter break with his family. Tom was swimming near the shore of the ocean when he saw a wave and decided to dive under it, as one commonly does with waves. Nobody knows exactly what subsequently transpired, but it is believed that the wave forced Tom towards the ocean floor, which he struck in an extremely unfortunate manner. Cognizant Tom thought that he was going to drown as he helplessly attempted to surface. Mr. and Mrs. Babb thought that he was messing around, but they soon realized that something went terribly wrong. Once Tom reached the shore, he was surrounded by his parents and a number of doctors who just happened to be on the beach that day. Thus began a journey that only one with the character of Tom could fight through.
Tom has come a long way since that day. The shift from incredulity with respect to what happened to an unfaltering resilience was not an easy or abrupt one, but it is clear to all that Tom is now handling his situation in an inspiring way. He spent weeks in an Oahu hospital before he was stable enough to fly in a hospital jet back to Denver, his home. He spent 3 months at Craig hospital, where he made strides towards rehabilitation that not even the doctors could have predicted. Getting past the terrible nature of the accident, the Babbs have continually commented on how remarkably well the subsequent processes have transpired. Initially, Tom was told that he would most likely never breathe without a ventilator again, but today Tom controls his electric chair completely on his own. Tom’s extraordinary resilience allowed him to be the fastest patient in Craig history to be weaned off of a ventilator. It comes with no surprise to his pledge brothers, given Tom’s evidently exceptional attitude and demeanor.
The inaugural tomSTRONG5k in April of 2016, fully funded the Tom Babb Student Accessibility Scholarship through the KU Endowment. From this point forward, the scholarship will be awarded to a student at the University of Kansas selected by the Student Access and Achievement Center, and Beta Theta Pi. In a matter of two months, a team of dedicated individuals of the Lawrence community orchestrated the largest non KU athletic event on campus. In all, more than 785 participants and 21 sponsors helped turn the scholarship from a dream into a reality.
After three years of TomSTRONG the race has raised over $100,000 and the scholarship has been awarded to a current KU students. This dream becoming a reality could not have been possible without the generosity of the Jayhawk and Lawrence communities.
Tom returned to the University in the fall of 2016, where he lives in the Beta house, and is studying Journalism and Business.