Fundraiser aims to help injured rider back on bike

COLUMBIANA – Clint Zentner remembers the motocross accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. It was Aug. 2 of last year and he had just taken the lead in the event at the Columbiana County Fair.

He completed a series of small jumps and was coming out of a larger single jump when the bike went too far and landed in the wrong way.

“It threw me up over the bars of the bike … I was laying there and the kid I had just passed … landed right on my bike,” he said.

The impact of the dirt bike on his back was too much. In addition to breaking his back, he also broke his shoulder in seven places and suffered a collapsed lung.

Clint, 23, was taken by helicopter to St. Elizabeth Hospital for the injuries, and he remained there two weeks. He was then transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital where he stayed until Oct. 18.

He is now home with family in New Waterford undergoing outpatient physical therapy and attending classes at the Calcutta Y.

He hasn’t let his paralysis stop him from enjoying the sport he was introduced to at 4 years old when his dad bought him his first bike. He was 9 years old when he entered his first race.

“It’s been my life. I grew up in the sport so it’s kind of like a lifestyle it’s not really a sport to me. I live all parts of it, I don’t just ride,” he said.

His brother Brandon, 21, also rode with him until enlisting in the Marines in 2010. Brandon is stationed in California and returned home for two weeks on July 14.

He will be riding in a benefit motorcycle run for Clint this Sunday. The run begins at the American Legion Post 290 in Columbiana and ends at Quaker Steak and Lube in Boardman.

A $10 breakfast buffet will be available during registration at the Legion. Food specials, including a $5 biker burger, 99 cent hamburgers, cheeseburgers and hot dogs, will be available at Quaker Steak and Lube.

Although wheelchair bound, he has found ways to ride on his own.

“Any kind of bike that I get on I’m strapped on it and I have good balance from riding and racing all these years. A lot of riding is just knowing what to do when something does happen so that’s why I can still ride,” he said.

He has been practicing on the small 110 pit bike he has at the house and only last week participated and placed third in a race at the Quaker Steak and Lube in Austintown.

This week was the first time he was able to ride his Harley Sportster Nightster since the accident. The bike features a landing gear system that automatically helps balance the bike when starting and slowing down.

He hopes to one day ride the bike he was racing at the county fair. The bike is currently on display at the Boardman Quaker Steak and Lube, and marketing manager Kelly Gill said the restaurant has been working to help Clint since meeting him in May.

“We’ve been working with him ever since on any way we can help him achieve his goal of riding again,” she said.

All proceeds from the benefit on Sunday will go toward his stay at Project Walk, a facility near San Diego, Ca., that specializes in physical therapy for spinal cord injuries.

Clint hopes to stay six weeks and the cost is $110 per hour, with treatment usually three hours four or five days a week.

He has already begun researching possible grant funding from other areas to pay for a portion of the cost.

Gill said the restaurant raised $400 during a recent Give Back night in which 10 percent of the sales went to the cause.

“We’re just really excited about being able to help him raise money for Project Walk,” she said.