MARTINSVILLE — It was a show of small-town love on Sunday in Morgan County for a family of six.
Dozens came out to support the Grounds family as they cut the ribbon on their new home in Martinsville customized for Lucas Grounds.
“It's quite surreal, I must say,” Lucas said.
In December of 2020, Lucas, 17, was paralyzed from the waist down after a motorbike accident. At the time, Grounds just signed a deal to go pro. It was quickly realized his home at the time would not be accessible for him. That’s where the community stepped in.
Sunco Construction came after the accident to look at the Grounds’ old house and realized renovations to make it ADA accessible were not possible. Instead, the construction company offered to build the family a new home.
The new house broke ground last May and was made possible through Sunco Construction, donations from contractors in the community, and fundraising from neighbors and the racing community.
“One of his biggest challenges at the other house was getting dressed every day. As far as like, I'd have to get his clothes out for him because the closets up here, so now that the closets, as you'll see are all lower, he can roll up to them, slide open the door and pull out his clothes and so he doesn't need us for really anything,” said Justin Grounds, Lucas’ father.
Lucas helped design everything in the family’s new home from the cabinets to the floorboards.
“I'm pleased with how everything came out and I think it looks pretty good. And I don't think you can tell a 17-year-old designed it,” Lucas said.
The idea is for the house to become Lucas’ forever home.
“I've joked with him before you know about it. I was like, 'Hey, the only one that can mess this up is you,'” Justin Grounds said with a laugh. “And, 'Can we stay here until your younger sister graduates?'"
Lucas spent 61 days at Riley Hospital for Children working daily through therapy. It was there he worked with occupational therapist Whitney Kozlowski.
“I worked with Mr. Lucas while he was in the hospital, throughout his whole stay,” Kozlowski said. “So we got to know each other pretty good.”
On Sunday, Kozlowski was there for the ribbon-cutting. Every day, she worked with Lucas for about 90 minutes. She said his “athlete mindset” helped him through recovery. He has his driver’s license and is back racing.
“It’s great to have her because she taught everything I needed to know and she taught it so well I was able to pick it up within weeks,” Lucas said.
Lucas now helps as a peer mentor through Skills on Wheels, a research study through IU Health’s occupational therapy program. The teenager will be returning to the track for the first time in a Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) race since his accident on May 7.
“I still do just as much stuff as I did before. And I don't know, just having a good outlook on life and what’s to come — you can't look back. You have to always look at what's coming ahead of you,” Lucas said.