At the 2020 TrueCar Military’s Driven to Drive Campaign, an organization that gifts cars to veterans, Karah Behrend’s dream came true, and won a retrofitted 2020 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. It just so happened that particular car was being driven by Sports & Service founder, current NASCAR driver, and United States Navy Reservist Jesse Iwuji.
Behrend’s military career started after she graduated high school in 2011 when she joined the Air Force as a signals intelligence analyst. Four years later, Behrend underwent a routine procedure that left her with a condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
“It basically destroyed the connection between my brain and limbs to the point where it sends repetitive signals and caused a massive amount of pain for a very long time,” Behrend said in an interview with TrueCar Military. “After a couple of years of treatments, and two more car accidents and back surgeries, the disease finally crept up my spinal cord and paralyzed me around the C7/C8 level, thus ending my Air Force career.”
A reality that could crush many, Behrend faced the challenge and continued to push through. An adrenaline junkie at heart, Behrend needed to find another competitive activity that would satisfy that heart-racing thrill she lived for. Behrend went mudding with a friend in 2019 and decided to give competitive racing a try. Behrend had posted a video online of her mudding and was contacted by someone in charge at the Rebelle Rally, an all-women race, which she credits that as her start.
“I love racing, because when I am in the driver’s seat and I look out at the other competitors, we all look the exact same,” Behrend said. “From the outside when you’re looking in, you cannot tell that I’m a female, you cannot tell that I’m disabled. You can’t tell anything about me. The only thing you’ll know is the dust after I smoke you.”
Behrend soon became the first disabled woman to receive a license to race from the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Behrend uses hand controls to operate the pedals and has since entered a few races. Behrend’s spirit and drive to do things that make her happy are admirable and encouraging. It proves that when things get tough, you don’t have to give up on doing the things you enjoy.
Photo credits: Karah Behrend’s Instagram