Redemption and recovery in New Zealand

JACKSON, Wyo. — In an instant, Christian “Christy” Little’s life and career were almost over.

The professional mountain biker and physical therapist was cycling through New Zealand in March 2016. She was on a mountainside. Then, suddenly, she was falling down the mountain. She broke her back and injured her spinal cord. Still, she managed to climb back up to the trail with limited use of her legs so that a helicopter could evacuate her.

Three and a half years later, Little is back in New Zealand to film a documentary called “A Ride With Purpose.” It is a tale of redemption, inspiration, and living life to the fullest.

“I know I survived to light a fire in others’ bellies to live out their adventurous dreams,” Little says.

Her recovery has been a long and hard journey, but Little says through it, she has found purpose. For three months, she was confined to a bed in New Zealand and could barely move her legs. As soon as she was able, she returned home to the United States to continue her healing.

Then, her best friend’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was the catalyst Little need to get out of bed and channel her healing outward.

“I felt really called to support here,” Little says. “I went there as soon as I could get out of bed.”

She got out of bed, and got right back on her bike. Little and her friend rode through the Alps in Europe in honor of her friend’s mother.

Little was back on her bike as soon as she could be. Photo: Katie Lo

In the three and a half years since her accident, Little has founded a company, “Leap to Fly,” that leads biking retreats to “beautiful places” like New Zealand and the Alps so she can share the healing power of movement and adventure. Surviving such a serious crash made her realize that she had a purpose on this earth, even if she didn’t know what it was yet.

Little is a woman of faith. She says when she was falling, she felt “God’s power in all things around lay me down gently. It was such a miracle.”

“I knew I was meant to live,” Little says. “I just didn’t know why.”

Little arrived in New Zealand again January 3. Over the next few months, she and a film crew she knows through bike racing will travel the country by bike, showcasing its beauty and documenting what it looks like to heal and find purpose in life.

“My biggest focal point is sharing adventure,” she says.

It’s a grassroots effort. Little is fronting all her own travel costs and wants to make sure the videographers get paid for their work. She’s created a GoFundMe to help get the project off the ground, and anyone who donates over $100 will be rewarded with pure Vermont maple syrup from Teton Maple Exchange. Donors who give $200 or more will receive a local, custom-made trucker hat or beanie. Watershed Jackson, an organization supporting athletes who have suffered traumatic brain or spinal chord injuries, has agreed to match the first $1,000 donated.

When it’s done, Little will bring the film to Jackson for its big premiere. She hopes to have it finished in time for biking season in North America, but she’s “not going to rush it.”

“My focus is on telling the right story,” she says.

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