A.J. and Martina Huntington are a typical newlywed couple at BYU. They like to watch movies, play Wii and go out to eat from time to time. But there is one thing different about them – Martina can no longer walk. Even more unexpected is the amount of service they give between themselves and to others.
Martina was in an accident during a snowboarding class at Sundance in 2009. There had been no snow for the previous couple of weeks; the slope was dry and icy. She slid down the hill too fast and landed on her back.
“I thought it was going to be another fall,” Martina said. “But then the fall was particularly rough. I got the wind knocked out of me.”
After a combined 18 hours of surgery and the following rehab, it was determined she would probably never walk again. A.J., her boyfriend at the time, who she met while volunteering at the MTC, supported and stayed with her through the entire ordeal.
“The fact that she was in a wheelchair didn’t change who she was to me, so I still loved her,” he said.
About a year and a half after the accident, A.J. proposed to Martina. Before presenting the ring, he gave her a new pair of scriptures engraved with her future married name, which she failed to notice at first. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in May 2011.
Still, the dramatic change was not easy for either of them. Martina had to learn how to live a daily life in a whole new way. Stairs became something to avoid now, and swimming and hiking could not be their favorite hobbies anymore. However, instead of complaining about the unfortunate accident, they have found perhaps the new mission of their lives – service.
The Huntingtons are program directors at Service to the World, a Y-Serve sponsored program that provides different countries with things such as educational learning aids and hygiene kits. This year it is working with a nongovernmental organization in Salt Lake City to send help to Uganda.
Martina said she would not be as positive as she is now if she wasn’t doing service.
“I feel like it’s one of your callings in life to do service,” she said. “When you do service, you are in a way telling your Heavenly Father, ‘I’m committed to you. I’m going to go and serve your children.’ And when you do service, you say, ‘I care about you.’ Either a teenager that you’ve worked alongside with or a stranger in another country, you are telling that person, ‘I care about you.’”
Her husband said there has been a different spirit in the relationship since they’ve served, which has brought them closer than ever. He said the type of service does not matter; the key is just to keep doing it.
“I really believe as a member of the Church and as a person that if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, the Lord is going to bless you in ways that you don’t know,” he said.
Jennifer Kironde, a BYU senior majoring in public health and another program director at Service to the World, said she has known Martina Huntington for the last two years.
“Martina is the most selfless person I’ve ever met,” Kironde said. “She is kind, a source of strength to others, and just full of sweetness. I always appreciated her great attitude and love of others. I still do.”
Like Kironde, many other people at Y-Serve are inspired by the Huntingtons and love them, said Janine Green, operations supervisor at the BYU Center for Service and Learning.
“Martina is the kind of woman who instead of saying, ‘why me?’ says, ‘why not me?’” Green said. “She just finds a way to be positive in all that she does. She is an inspiration to everybody who meets her; everybody who is privileged to work with her is made better because of her.”