Deserae Turner rides “The Demon Machine” in Cache Valley Cruise-In parade (with audio and video)

Deserae Turner and her friend, Savannah Straatman, fill their plates during a barbecue dinner on July 1, 2017 sponsored by Team Demon's Project Against the Odds and coordinated by Amy Parker, a friend of the Turner family. 

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LOGAN — Deserae Turner’s been told more than once that she’s photogenic. She smiles for the camera with confidence—poised, comfortable and radiant. She says she loves people, and she understands why the community is so eager to hear her story.

“I think they’re just curious about me, and that’s ok,” she said. “I can talk to anybody. I like to tell my story.”

On February 16, 2017, Deserae was shot in the head in Smithfield, her teenaged assailants leaving her critically wounded in a dry canal bed near Sky View High School.

“She is in the fight of her life right now,” a family spokeswoman said six days later, when Deserae’s survival was uncertain.

But Deserae did survive the attack, and she was honored on July 1, 2017 as a community hero. At the invitation of <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=the%20demon%20machine” target=”_blank”>Team Demon’s Project Against the Odds</a>, Deserae enjoyed a barbecue in her honor on Saturday. She then went for an unforgettable ride on a one-of-a-kind cross-terrain vehicle called “The Demon Machine,” taking a loop in the <a href=”http://www.cachevalleycruisein.net/” target=”_blank”>Cache Valley Cruise-In</a> parade.

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“It was exciting,” she said, “It was fun.”

It was also exhausting. Deserae’s mother, April Turner, hasn’t left Deserae’s side since her daughter was so gravely wounded. After spending two months in Primary Children’s Medical Center, 15-year-old Deserae returned to her home in Amalga still facing a long journey toward recovery. She was back in the hospital just this week and wasn’t released until Friday.

“She’s tired,” April said. “It takes a lot out of her. In order for her to come tonight, she had to save her energy.”

During the grueling months since she was injured, Deserae has endured several brain surgeries, extensive rehabilitation and countless appointments with medical providers. She’s also celebrated successes. When asked what she’s most proud of in her recovery, Deserae doesn’t miss a beat.

“I’m able to walk,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I could do that. The doctors didn’t even know if I could do that.  I don’t have my two functioning arms to use a cane or a walker, but I learned how to walk…and I can ride my horse, so that’s good.”

Deserae’s recovery is a family effort, led by her parents, Matt and April, with the support of her four siblings.  Neighbors and friends call the Turners “remarkable” people, and Trevor has become one of their biggest fans.

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“They’re doing something that very few people can do,” Trevor said, “which is face an incredible life challenge but do it optimistically with a lot of forgiveness. They’re kind, they’re gentle and they’re incredibly happy. To me, that’s a perfect hero.”

April is a woman of faith who does not like the spotlight, and she accepts Trevor’s compliment humbly.

“We do try,” she said, “but I think a lot of it comes down to following the example of our Savior and just treating people the way you’d want to be treated and then having compassion for others. Des has a big heart, and I think it’s grown. Going through something like that, you don’t look at things the same way.”

Trevor thinks Deserae is inspiring because she is so genuine. When asked what others can learn from her experience, her answer is simple, wise and sincere.

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“I guess they can learn whatever they take out of it,” she said with a shrug.  “Be kind to people no matter what happened. Like the people that hurt me, I’ve still stood up for them. A lot of people say they deserve to be hurt back, and I’m like, ‘No, that’s not right. They don’t deserve to be hurt just because they hurt me.’ So, I guess, be nice to everybody no matter what.”

Already, young Deserae has challenged more significant odds than most people face in a lifetime, and Team Demon is grateful to all who helped recognize her achievements on Saturday.

Project Against the Odds was created by Team Demon (Trevor Erickson, Tyler Erickson, Jack Hopkin and Cory Field) to celebrate the successes of heroes like Deserae.

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“It’s a great cause to help those who are in need of the most help,” said Hopkin’s wife, September Hopkin.  “So for us to help recognize kids in the area that need extra help or that have done amazing things, it just makes this whole thing worth it—late nights, our husbands out working on the machine for many, many nights. It’s mostly a family effort because we all try and pitch in to make Team Demon work.”

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Project Against the Odds hopes to benefit many more children and families in the future and is soon hoping to develop a foundation.

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“It’s always exhilarating,” said Trevor. “It’s a lot of work. It’s always more work than I thought, but a lot of people stepped up to help make this happen. That’s always really motivating because you just think, ‘Wow, there’s so many people in this world that care.’ You know, everybody here is good people, so it feels good. I love it. I love being here.”  

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jennifer@cvradio.com 

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