WELLESLEY (CBS) - At just 21, Thomas Smith is all too familiar with uphill battles.
"It's like learning how to walk," said Smith.
His first fight began in 2008 after high school when the aspiring collegiate hockey player took a nasty spill during practice.
WBZ-TV's Diana Perez reports.
"As I jumped over the goalie to try to avoid the collision my skates hit the goalies helmet and I went airborne head first into the boards," said Smith.
For more information: The Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis Foundation
He was paralyzed from the waist down he spent hundreds of hours in therapy in a Miami rehab center.
Within months, he got the all-clear from the doctors, and by May of 2009 he was back on the ice rink.
Then, tragedy hit again.
"I was skating around the net and lost the edge to my blade and I fell and I just hit the boards wrong," said Smith.
He suffered a completely different spinal injury with same result: paralysis.
"It was basically my biggest fear happening again," said Smith.
In the year and half since, the Babson College freshman has turned his fear into determination for a cure.
He started the Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis Foundation and just created the state's first vanity license plate for paralysis.
Smith said his vision is to one day have his license plate on the backs of cars all over the state, but in order for that to happen, people need to start registering for these plates.
He needs 1,500 people to apply for the plate to get into production, and half of the money raised will go to his foundation.
"This could be a major part of really giving people a second chance at walking because of how much money these plates can raise," said Smith.
And his story is inspiring others. The Linden Store in Wellesley is just one of the many stores drumming up attention for Smith's cause.
Smith said $22 from every registered plate will be donated to his foundation. He wants to use the money raised through to help fund Massachusetts' first, certified spinal cord rehabilitation center.
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