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Santa Maria boy badly injured in 2015 car crash stages remarkable recovery

It’s been an amazing week so far for Elijah Olivas at the Santa Barbara County Fair.

“It’s been pretty fun,” Olivas said. “I like coming out every day, working with my pig and I get to spend time with my 4-H family.”

The 13-year-old from Santa Maria is a new member of Nipomo-based County Line 4-H.

He’s showing a pig and a turkey at the week-long event. It’s his first ever fair as a livestock student.

“I was pretty nervous my first time yesterday, but I think I’m good now,” said Olivas.

Olivas is one of hundreds of local students who are showing animals during the week-long event.

Each of them has worked hard over the past several months, toiling long hours with their animals.

Olivas, though, is no ordinary livestock exhibitor here.

Three years ago, he survived a horrific car crash in Nipomo that nearly claimed his life.

Olivas suffered numerous life-threatening injuries, including an amputated right hand, which doctors were able to successfully re-attach.

“It’s a miracle. It’s a blessing,” said his father Jason Olivas. “He’s a remarkable little man and so determined.”

The October 2015 crash was well-publicized. Olivas was just 10-years-old when he, along with his brother, were involved the wreck that was caused by their wrestling coach, who was determined to be under the influence of prescription medication.

The coach received a six-year jail term for causing the crash. Olivas and the family later said they have forgiven the driver.

Over the past two-plus years, Olivas has made a remarkable recovery while enduring countless surgeries and seemingly endless rehabilitation.

“I had to physical therapy,” said Olivas. “I had to learn how to walk again, I had to learn how to talk and speech therapy.”

“He’s been focused,” said Jason Olivas. “He was not going to let this keep him down. In the hospital they told us he make not walk right. He may not be able to do the things he’s doing now. He said dad, I’m not going to let that stop me.”

According to his father, Olivas still faces future surgeries and his rehabilitation remains a long-term process.

“We’re still continuously doing therapy, continuously going to Stanford to LA for checkups,” said Jason Olivas. “That is something that he is going to deal with for quite some time.”

Unfortunately, as a result of his injuries, Olivas has not been able to continue wrestling, which he excelled at when he was younger.

Raising his animals has allowed him to reignite the ability to face competition and to strive to be the best.

“He gets to compete against other kids his age,” said Jason Olivas. “His hog gets to compete against other hogs and that has really excited him.”

After three days, Olivas is providing to be quite successful against the competition during his first fair.

He earned 2nd place in his class and was 8th place overall in personal showmanship with his pig on Tuesday. He also placed 4th in his class in animal showmanship on Wednesday.

“It was pretty fun,” Olivas said. “I got picked pretty early and I got to move on to the championship and I did really good there.”

No matter how many ribbons he wins or where the judges place him at, his family continues to be amazed at his strength and the many accomplishments he achieves.

“Just seeing him out there competing in something again it really hit close to home,” said Jason Olivas. “I literally had to walk out of the barn so he wouldn’t see me tear up a little bit. I had to take a walk because it was that emotional.”

Olivas said he has enjoyed his time with 4-H so much, he’s planning to continue through high school.

In the immediate future, he has the auction coming up on Friday and Saturday.

No matter how many dollars his two animals bring in, Olivas may be the biggest winner of all at the Santa Barbara County Fair.

His ability to battle against the odds and succeed is providing incredible inspiration to everyone around him.

“Just work through adversity,” said Jason Olivas. “If you feel something is hard or something is a challenge, just keep working at it and you’ll accomplish it.”

Jason Olivas had a message for the community, which in typical Santa Maria fashion, rallied around Olivas during his recovery.

“Just want to say thank you to everybody out there that supported us,” said Jason Olivas. “For all your thoughts and prayers, they didn’t go unnoticed. Thank you.”

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