Inspirational speaker set

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An Illinois man will share his story of faith, illness and recovery at the First Christian Church Tuesday, April 17, according to FCC member David Dick, who has helped coordinate the evening.

Eric “Hoovey” Elliott will speak at 5 p.m. in the sanctuary of the church, Dick said. The speech is free and open to the public, he noted. A dinner will follow after in the church basement for $5.

Now a commercial field underwriter for Country Financial in Bloomington, Elliott’s story is the subject of a book written by his father, Jeff, titled “Rebounding from Death’s Door.” The movie, “Hoovey,” released in 2014, was based on the book and produced by Echolight Studios in Texas — the same studio that produced “Soul Surfer.” That film was also based on a book, “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family and Fighting to get back on the Board,” by Bethany Hamilton.

Jeff Elliott and his then 13-year-old son, Eric, were shoveling snow at their Illinois farmhouse in 1999 when Eric suddenly went cross-eyed and collapsed in pain. When the family’s doctor advised the couple to bring him in immediately, “it blindsided us,” said Jeff Elliott. The real shock came when he was suddenly faced with getting his son to a hospital in a pickup buried up to its axle in snow.

In one of the many speeches Jeff Elliott has given over the years about the incident, he noted Eric was, “in a tremendous amount of pain, going in and out of consciousness.” The desperate father said he tried digging the truck out but, “it was impossible. The truck wasn’t even budging.”

Jeff Elliott called his wife, Ruth, and both did the only thing they knew to do — pray for a miracle. The father said he saw a vision of three angels.

When he tried the ignition again, “we came bursting out of the ditch like we were being pushed by a Mack truck,” Jeff Elliott said. “The next mile was a sea of 4-foot drifts and each drift we hit would fly over the top of the truck.”

At the hospital, a CT scan showed a tumor the size of an orange at the base of Eric’s skull. He was immediately taken to surgery. Doctors said Eric would have died that night without the surgery

The book and the movie follows the Elliott family’s journey to help their son relearn to read, walk and eventually return to a major love in his life — basketball. Eric had to overcome double vision and no balance to eventually earn the college scholarship.

Dick said Jeff Elliott’s book was written after the father was overcome with emotion watching Eric play in his first collegiate basketball game at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg. Eric’s Carl Sandburg College coach, Mike Bailey, said, “Eric has accepted challenges that many will never face and has become a better person for it. My program needs 15 of him.”

During his senior year of high school, Eric woke up at 1:30 a.m. every morning to deliver a rural paper route, traveling 90 miles each night before finishing at 4:30 a.m. After school he lifted weights and shot around for an hour or two.

Dick explained Eric Elliott’s speech is scheduled at 5 p.m. to allow him to get back to Bloomington-Normal before it’s too late.

The nickname “Hoovey,” Dick said, was given to Eric when he was two-years-old and got his arm stuck in a Hoover vacuum cleaner. 

Eric Elliott can now reflect with a calm reasoning on the events of the past and see the far-reaching designs of a higher power.

“From the start, we’ve all really had a strong feeling that God had a plan,” he said in an interview when the movie was released. “We saw so many miracles in what happened, we felt it was all happening for a reason. It’s been exciting waiting for just the moment we can relate the way it all happened.”

Hoovey is now married to Laura and the father of a son, Caden, and daughter, Chloe. “I never wake up and take another day for granted ... I look at what happened as a positive thing that has shown me how strong we can be ... how far I can push myself ... and proven to us all that this is part of God’s plan — his will being done,” he said.