Defining Cody Seehafer as disabled is a lot like suggesting an iceberg is small. You’re missing 90 percent of what’s under the surface. Talk to Cody for even a few minutes and you’ll discover he’s better described as someone who has learned to just roll with it.
His attitude, no doubt, was a huge factor when Watertown chose Cody, a native of Milbank and a 2012 graduate of MHS, as the recipient of their 2022 Outstanding Citizen With a Disability Award. The award is presented to an individual in recognition of outstanding achievements in overcoming a disability. It is also designed to promote independent living and employment opportunities for those with disabilities.
Cody was born with spina bifida – a condition that occurs when the spine and spinal column don’t form properly – and he has faced many surgeries and challenges associated with it. Life has given Cody quite a few lemons, but his reply has always been, “Hey, look at this awesome pitcher of lemonade I just made.” Although, he actually prefers root beer. His favorite brand of root beer is 1919, which got its name from the year Prohibition began and breweries were faced with shutting down. Instead, many started producing elixirs, soda pop, and near beer. They adapted, survived, and even thrived.
But it would be wrong to judge a root beer by its label. Cody says he likes 1919 Root Beer because “it tastes good.” Specifically, he likes it because it’s available in kegs. “I think the keg makes it taste better. Crisper,” he adds. It used to be his drink of choice to go with his favorite tacos. He recently developed allergies to gluten and dairy, though. So Cody said adios to tacos! He now fires up his air fryer for his new favorite – pork chops.“I promise you in the air fryer your chicken will come out moist and tender, not dry. Plus, it’s great for crisping up leftovers,” he recommends.
Cody also likes fish – eating it and catching it. He says, “A pontoon is the easiest way for me to go fishing, and I hope to do more fishing this summer.” For now, his uncle, who also lives in Watertown, invites him over for fish fries.
He also enjoys hunting. Lately, he has focused on going to the range and shooting .22s, keeping up on gun reviews, and watching online gun videos. Terrain is one of the issues that makes hunting so challenging for him, but Cody has found a solution. The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department has recently obtained an action-track wheelchair. Cody says, “An all-terrain action-track wheelchair has tracks in place of wheels. It’s like a regular wheelchair on steroids!” The chair can handle bumpy ground and even mud, snow, sand, and water.
Cody envisions the action-track wheelchair as a resource that can be shared amongst other outdoor enthusiasts in our area who rely on a wheelchair.
For now, though, his plan has stalled. He says, “The Game, Fish, and Parks Department is working out their liability issues.”
Most likely, Cody will not give up on this idea anytime soon. He says, “I’m lucky to be good at meeting people and talking easily with them. I try to use that to help others.”
He believes his recent award will “tremendously” expand his efforts in helping others by being their voice. “I’m willing to ask the questions that most people are afraid to ask,” he says. The award has also propelled him into the position of president of the Watertown Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities. “Plus,” he says. “I already know the mayor from the Prairie Lakes Wellness Center, where we are both members.”
One of his current projects involves communicating with Hy-Vee to streamline the way many disabled people purchase and receive their groceries. Cody uses a benefits card and now has to wait for his caregiver to pick up the card, take the card to Hy-Vee, pay for his food, pick up the groceries, and take them to Cody’s apartment. “It’s unnecessary,” Cody says. He suggests an Instacart-type system which would enable him and others like him to order and purchase their groceries online and have them delivered. He believes it would save many caregivers hours of work and give disabled shoppers much more independence.
Some of Cody’s other solutions appear even simpler. He says if drivers would stop parking in handicapped parking spaces and home and store owners would shovel their walkways, his life would move along a little easier.
When he can’t get out and about, Cody spends a lot of time reading, and most of the books are about self-improvement. He also watches self-improvement videos on YouTube. He says he has learned, “Life is always changing. This is where I am supposed to be, and I can take the negatives and turn them into positives. Pouting never gets you anything!”
“My values include a love of the outdoors and my faith,” he explains. He expresses those same values in his tattoos. Although, he admits, “When I got my last tattoo, it was the worst pain I’d ever felt in my life!” That speaks volumes coming from a man who has undergone 13 surgeries, including brain surgery. But he concedes, “It probably had more to do with that tattoo’s placement on my arm. The first time I got a tattoo, it was a relaxing experience, maybe even therapeutic. I almost fell asleep.”
One of his tattoos reads, Vaya con Dios’or ‘go with God’. One incorporates the angel medallion his sister Anna gave to him the night before his brain surgery, and his latest ink depicts him breaking free from the chains of disability.
Coincidence or not, Cody’s pet also has a disability. She’s a calico cat named Harley who moved in with Cody about three or four years ago. “I got her from a friend, and her front paw was messed up. When we took her to the vet, the vet determined she had no muscles in that paw. She walks on three legs.” Cody says the cat purrs loudly like a Harley and offers him company and emotional support when he’s at home. As much as he adores his cat, he says, “I’d really rather be out socializing with my friends.” But when he moved back to South Dakota from Minnesota, his transportation options really changed. “Evening bus service in Watertown is very expensive,” he remarks. He also loves to talk with people by phone and welcomes a call from anyone.
Cody’s parents are June and Fred Hunt and Kristi and Phil Seehafer, and he occasionally travels to see them in Milbank. His apartment is in Watertown, though, and he loves visitors. If you ever find yourself in Watertown and want to get together, don’t hesitate to give him a call at 605.467.0547. You can also send him a text to say “Hi.”
And while you’re still working on your New Year’s resolutions, like eating healthier and going to the gym, remember Cody’s lemons-to-lemonade method. When Cody was younger, he used crutches. He also pedaled and rode a bicycle using his hands. Both of these activities continued to build his upper-body strength, and he went on to win the MHS school record for pull-ups.
If you’re already struggling to keep your resolution to head to the gym, don’t despair. Think of Cody again and jot down this quote by John A. Holmes instead: “The best exercise for the heart is reaching down and lifting people up.”