The ultimate friend

Name: Chris Thoman
Major: Organizational leadership and supervision
Year: Senior
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

He saw a need and filled it: Chris became good friends with Lawrence North High School classmate Brandon Scott during a choir trip to New York City when they were juniors. Brandon, who was born with congenital limb deficiency (his limbs did not fully develop at birth), was in need of a primary caretaker. When Chris found out that Brandon needed assistance with daily tasks, he immediately stepped up to the challenge. "I knew there should be no one else taking care of him but me." His role as Brandon's 24/7 caretaker, which Brandon's parents insisted was a paid position coordinated through an agency to be fair to Chris, continued for three more years, after they both decided to attend Purdue. Other high school friends, Daniel Perron and Jordan Alvarado, also helped care for Brandon.

Olympic hurdles: In addition to serving as Brandon's caretaker, Chris (along with Jordan Alvarado) has also been helping Brandon train for the 2012 Paralympics in swimming. Although Brandon transferred to Ball State to pursue telecommunications, his work with Chris continues.

A life-changing experience: "I had never taken on that kind of responsibility, but I gained so much maturity from it," Chris says of caring for Brandon. "There were days I definitely could have used another hour of sleep, and so could he. But it was all worth it. Now that he is not here, I miss him so much."

Setting the bar high: Going to school and being a caretaker would be enough for most students to handle, but not for Chris. He has been a varsity pole vaulter for the Purdue men's track and field team since 2008, earning a number of NCAA honors. "I like pole vaulting because it's a combination of a little thrill-seeking craziness and dynamic athleticism. It's definitely frustrating at times, because it is an inanimate object and not a person or a team that you are competing against. But the bar is always being set higher, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I think it makes you a better person."

Multitalented: In his spare time, Chris enjoys playing guitar. He writes and performs his own music.

Man with a plan: After graduation, Chris plans to take over his father's financial business in Indianapolis. He is also working on a business plan to start his own company dealing with entertainment. In addition, he and Brandon would like to coach a wheelchair soccer league in Indianapolis.

By Kim Delker