Ben Trockman
A native Evansvillian, Ben Trockman is making this community a better place to live, work, and play for everyone — every single day. Whether advocating for disability related causes or hanging out with friends, Ben never misses an opportunity to make a difference. His positive attitude is infectious, and if you haven't met Ben yet — you should.
He is changing the world.

Meet Ben

I was born and raised in Evansville. I went to the University of Southern Indiana, and graduated in 2014 with a degree in Public Relations and Advertising. Right before I graduated, I had the opportunity to meet with some folks here at Old National Bank, and we started talking about what I could do with my life. Since my spinal cord injury in 2006, I’ve been very passionate about disability related causes — helping people and working with not-for-profits such as Easter Seals Southwest Indiana, which is right here in Evansville. And, I had the opportunity to talk with Ron Hagy, who is the Talent Acquisition Manager at Old National Bank. We just had a lovely conversation about different things in life and pursuit of what I might want to do next. I shared my passion of helping people with disabilities. And that — somehow, someway — lead to a position here at Old National Bank where I concentrate each and every day to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. 

Was there a moment or turning point when you decided how you want to live your life?

I believe every person has an opportunity to make life exactly what they want. When you wake up, when you put on your shirt in the morning — you can choose to pursue a path of positivity or negativity. For me, I wake up every morning thinking — how can we change the world? And I know some people call me crazy. That happens more often than not, actually. But, why not believe that you can change the world?! You can take a situation and make it as good or as bad as possible. But I think when you wake up in the morning, you can make a decision to change somebody’s life. To give back. To enjoy what you’re doing every single day. And, that’s just a conscious decision.

Change the Sign, Change the Attitude

What is the "Change the Sign, Change the Attitude" initiative?

For reference, the old wheelchair logo was designed in 1968. Most brands have changed or updated their logo several times since 1968, right? Then, you think about the wheelchair logo that signifies people. Why would we not think about updating a logo that is over 50 years old that signifies the largest minority population in the United States?! 

So our resource group at Old National, The Abilities First Associate Resource Group, saw this really cool work that New York state was doing with "Change the Sign, Change the Attitude", and thought - why not us?! We created a petition and shared it with our community. We’ve had lawmakers and legislators come in and really add some enthusiasm behind our change of sign petition. And we’ve been able to share it in other states.

When you think about updating a logo, it seems very small, but then again you’re representing a large population of people. It gets people thinking about folks with disabilities. If we can shed light on this population — this very large, untapped talent pool — and talk about accessibility issues; if it all starts with a logo, so be it. That’s good ground to start from.

When you wake up, when you put on your shirt in the morning — you can choose to pursue a path of positivity or negativity.

What is your plan to bring a spinal cord injury rehab facility to the Midwest? What can the community do to support that?

I have a dream to establish a neurological recovery center in Evansville, Indiana. Neurology includes brain injury, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy — disabilities or disorders that affect thousands of people throughout the Tri-State. Each year, I travel to Baltimore to receive therapy at a speciality clinic that provides these therapies that are life changing. If we can tap into the new and existing medical resources here in Evansville to establish a clinic that helps children and adults like myself receive specialty therapy without having to travel for days ... That is one of my big dreams.  

As far as how the community can get involved, I think that raising awareness and advocating is most important. As I talk with community leaders about creating such a clinic, I think being able to sell people on the idea and realizing the number of people who would be positively affected is vital to understanding the success. There are so many kids and adults that travel so far each day or each month. So, share your story, advocate, and say - this is something that we want. This is something we need. 

What happens or doesn’t happen that might make a person with disabilities feel excluded? What can we as a community do to be more inclusive?

Please tell us about the work that is done at Easter Seals, and why it is so important.

Easter Seals is a special place for me and my family because they’ve been able to help me through my recovery, to stay healthy and strong every single day.  Many may not know that Easter Seals serves about 6,500 individuals throughout the Tri-State each year. Acknowledging that and knowing the impact that Easter Seals makes on children and adults with disabilities in the Tri-State really fires me up to be a part of the cause. Just watching young people’s lives change for the good as they receive these different therapies is incredible and continues my passion to advocate for them.

What can we as a community do to be more inclusive?

It’s teaching young people to ask questions and not be afraid to say, “Ben, what happened?” or “Ben, how does your chair work?” Because in the future, those kids aren’t going to be afraid to ask about someone with cerebral palsy; they’re going to know about it. I think creating a community that is open to sharing ideas and asking questions creates a more inclusive community.

What advice or tips would you give to someone who is unsure how to engage with a person that looks different than they do?

Who inspires you?

The people that inspire me are folks that wake up everyday and help other people. The people that give back, every single day to improve the lives of others. I’ve been on the other end of that scope. I’ve received that care from nurses, therapists, doctors, and family members. The people that inspire me are people who don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Anyone out there that refuses to accept life the way it is, and wants to help someone, wants to move forward with a cause — whether it’s fixing up your yard or it’s changing someone’s life through therapy services. That's who inspires me.

Ben outside

Often times the little things in life turn out to be the things that really matter. Why do you think it's hard for people to maintain an attitude of gratitude?

People need to be inspired. People need to see the good things in life, but so often we see the bad things in life — from the news to stories at work. Drown out all that noise and turn on some inspiration! Spend time giving back; spend time out in your community. Spend time with people who don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It is easy to be negative; it is easy to not be grateful; it is easy to not be optimistic. It’s hard to keep up and add to the positivity sometimes. But I can tell you, if you do it for one day, two days, three days, a week — it’s going to feel natural. It’s going to feel good. You’re going to have an impact on people around you. And your friends and your family members will adapt, adopt, and enforce that attitude of gratitude.

So yes, it’s easy to not see the light in everything, but when you’re challenged with great circumstances, you learn from them. Whatever that may mean to you; I think that you can learn a lot about people’s lives and your own life for that matter. And really feel the inspiration.

Why not believe that you can change the world?!

What is your vision of Evansville in 1 year? In 5 years?

A year from now, Evansville is going to have a downtown medical school that has 2,500 students going in and out of the door every single day. Our downtown core —the number of people on the streets and supporting local businesses — is going to really start growing. We can be a part of that positive momentum and watch it happen. I love seeing the streets shaping up to where I can get across the street now without having a slight concussion … I can tell you that, in some places, driving around this city in this chair gets a little dicey. Seeing the growth in our cultural districts, the pride in our downtown area, and the increased foot traffic is very exciting.

If in 5 years, we can have 5,000 people living downtown, roaming the streets, supporting local business, wearing Evansville t-shirts — that will be amazing. Having young people in middle school talk about the impact that they’re going to make on Evansville when they grow up — that’s my dream.

What do you know for sure?

I know for sure that if you keep a positive attitude, you can accomplish anything in the world. I know for sure that the residents of Evansville, Indiana have the opportunity to pave their own path in life. I know for sure that if you spend time every single day thinking about someone else than yourself, that our community can be a better place. I know for sure if your attitude is right, you surround yourself with the right people, and you never let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your dreams then you can make a significant impact.