“I Love Medora”

A letter from Colton Keightley,

“My name is Colton Keightley. I am from Willamina, a very small town in Oregon and I am 20 years old. I consider myself somewhat of a unique individual, as I have Cerebral Palsy. Regardless, I do not let this hold me back from living my life to the fullest.”

Those are the opening words in a new book, “The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Nothing,” on sale at the Joe Ferris Store in Medora, written by one of our most interesting summer employees, Colton Keightley. It’s recommended reading. If you just read of the accomplishments of this young man who’s spending his second summer with us, you’d never know he suffered from a debilitating disorder.

How I’m affected

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth and affects people in different ways, such as body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance.

Most of us know someone with Cerebral Palsy. None of us knows anyone who has overcome so many obstacles to accomplish what Colton has in his short life.


Moving forward

In 2019, after finishing high school and a year of college, he applied at several national park sites for summer employment. He was offered a job at Bryce Canyon in Utah, but chose Medora instead.

Now he’s in his second summer minding the counter and the cash register at the Joe Ferris Store. If he has his way, he’ll be doing that for many years, or working at some other job in Medora.

“I love it here,” Colton says. “I love North Dakota.”
Colton can be found most days from now through September 15 at the Ferris Store, although he helps out at other stores around town when he’s not on duty—or when he’s not working out at the gym at the Life Skills Center.

Working with customers is his first love, but keeping physically fit through a weight training program is his passion. It doesn’t take more than a quick glance to see that his fitness program works.

Pumping the iron

“I love going to the gym, but it could be better,” he says. To that end, he’s helping make it better. He’s donating a portion of the proceeds from his book to TRMF to add new equipment to the gym he and his fellow employees use. Earlier this summer, he presented a check for $2,800 to TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler, and two friends of his each chipped in $1,000 of their own, at Colton’s urging.

What happens after September 15, when his stint in Medora ends?
“TBA,” he says. “I have a few job offers.” Last winter he worked at a ski resort in Colorado, a place he could end up back at this winter.

Medora is Home

“Eventually I need to settle down somewhere,” he says. “I hope it’s here.”
In his book, he writes, “After spending my summer (2019) in Medora, I knew that it was home. I cannot put into words how much Medora changed my life, and I truly believe that I will end up there for good one day . . . Medora is a place with some crazy history and it has been making life-changing impressions on people forever, including Theodore Roosevelt.”
Meanwhile, he’ll continue taking online college classes in pursuit of a college degree.

“Throughout my entire life, my education has been very important to me and I have worked very hard to push through the various struggles that my education has thrown at me,” he writes in his book. “In the next year I will finish college and that will be one of my greatest achievements to date.”

When he leaves here in September, he’ll go back to Oregon to see his family before deciding on winter plans. He comes from a large family, the youngest of nine children—four brothers and four sisters. “I’m very close to all of them,” he says.

Check out my Book!

He’ll also continue to sell his books, and not just where he’s working. It’s available on Amazon for just $9.99. He’ll continue to give a portion of those sales to TRMF. “I’m hoping if I tell people my story it will help motivate them to donate,” he says.

Not only does Colton love Medora, but Medora loves Colton as well.
“If I were to describe Colton in one word it would be ‘Good,’” says Daniel Gannarelli, TRMF’s Annual Giving Director. “He is a good friend. A good employee. And most importantly, a good person. His enthusiasm for Medora and the wit he provides as he does his job makes the last two summers in Medora a true joy.”

Daniel also praised Colton’s generosity as “inspiring.”

“His gift is inspiring on two levels. First, the generosity of his donation to the weight room from a percentage of his book sales is really inspiring for someone so young. Second, Colton’s philanthropy inspired two others to join him in supporting the weight room.”

“TRMF will continue to go far because of wonderful Rough Rider members like Colton.” We hope Colton chooses Medora as his permanent home, and is with us for many more years.

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