Lexi Youngberg Kuppler has practically grown up within the community of the Beautifully Flawed Foundation since attending our second annual retreat in 2014 and the word that comes to mind to describe her is certainty. Evolving from attendee, to community leader and ambassador, and now foundation board member, Lexi is a model of influence that carries certainty of self, circumstance and faith – despite a deep wrestling with the contrary.
In 2009, Lexi was involved in a boating accident that resulted in the death of a friend and the instantaneous amputation of her left leg below the knee. She counts it a blessing today that she was knocked unconscious in the event that would dramatically change her life. And she recognizes the miracle, too, that a marine and trauma surgeon would be first hand witnesses of the event and narrowly save her life.
After two emergency rooms, 10 surgeries and two months of hospitalization, Lexi began to rebuild her life – starting with learning how to walk again.
“I pretty quickly came to realize that I had to figure things out to go forward,” said Lexi. “I quickly put it into perspective and I realized that trusting in God without knowing ‘why’ was the only way of getting through it. It was the first time that my faith had really been tested.”
Although her amputation is a defining turning point of her life, what you’ll recognize in meeting Lexi is that it is not a defining trait of her identity. Her faith, grit, mentorship and athleticism are what you remember of Lexi more than the fact that she’s missing a leg – an evidence of overcoming. Lexi returned to play on her high school soccer team the year following her accident.
Lexi competed as a Division 2 collegiate track and field athlete against full-bodied athletes. Then she was recruited to the Paralympic track and field team and would go on to compete internationally, winning gold at the 2016 Paralympic Brazil Games Trials in the long jump. She placed 7th in the world in the first ever adaptive division of the CrossFit Open in 2021 and she casually competes in wake surfing, too. She’s also a prosthetics technician and technician instructor, often utilizing these skills to assist the amputee community that attends her nonprofit events.
“Something bad happened and then it became something really good” says Lexi. “I have hard days, like anyone – you don’t have to be an amputee to have those. But overall it’s been really cool to be an amputee.”
As a member of the Beautifully Flawed community, Lexi is a “big sister” of our retreats and leads with confidence what it means to embody strength and certainty. From knowing the best legs to use for sand versus squats to having every “hack” and efficient tweak for prosthetic improvement, our younger attendees have a lot to benefit from Lexi’s experience and skills.
“I’ve practically grown up with the [Beautifully Flawed] Foundation],” says Lexi. “It’s such a unique community that has a foundation of faith to create a unique depth of friendship. We get to bounce ideas off of each other and come up with solutions – it’s about creating and empowering community.”
In 2019, Lexi founded Brave the Wave, a nonprofit organization that teaches adaptive wake surfing. A symbolically courageous response to her accident, Lexi and her husband now teach individuals with physical or cognitive differences how to embody courage, adventure and “stoke” in the tumultuous trails behind a boat. And for the first time, partnered with the Beautifully Flawed Foundation in 2022 for our Forge mens’ retreat. Needless to say, it was epic.
The truth is, the strength of Lexi’s physical body, the grace of her technical fingers and the creativity of her mind for innovation are reflections of the same strength and grace she embodies from the strength of her faith which we believe makes her admirable most of all.
“A crucial aspect to my faith is to remind myself that no matter where life leads me, to always trust God’s bigger purpose of each life experience,” says Lexi. “This means even when we may never know the full meaning behind a moment.”
Lexi’s story isn’t just a story of hope, although it is absolutely filled with it. It’s also about leadership, empowerment, mercy and grace and it’s with great pride that we look to her as a forefront leader of our community. And it’s why we know she’s crushing being a new mom, too. Her adaptability is as much her mental creativity as much as it is physical. When faced with the unique amputee-mom challenge of swelling, she just built another prosthetic socket herself.
“So much of being an amputee is going with the flow,” she said. “It’s important to have a flexible plan, because anything could go different than we envisioned it and change that plan. What is important is we allow ourselves to reevaluate our plan to what works for our situation. Life looks different each day than before, but we learn to adapt to our new normal.”
To learn more about Brave the Wave, follow @bravethewave on Instagram!