Last weekend we attended the Champion Within luncheon sponsored by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. The event honored champions who have overcome substantial obstacles to achieve success in athletics. They are champions despite disabilities.
The Champion Within Youth Program is designed to encourage youth to rise above obstacles in life and to believe in the “Champion Within”.
A room full of people watched as each athlete took the stage, received his award, and gave a short acceptance speech.
Rashard Witherspoon, a junior at the Tennessee School for the Deaf High School, made a name for himself as a hardworking athlete. In football, he was named All American by the Deaf Digest and NDIAA for 2012 &2013. In basketball he was placed on the All Viking Classic team and made All- Tournament and All District teams.
Rashard is also competing with other deaf students across the country in a national CrossFit challenge, works on computers and loves to spend time with his family.
Through all his experiences this young man says he knows that with God all things are possible and with humility he thanked God and his family for helping him achieve so much.
Joshua Putman was also honored. Joshua was born with Down’s syndrome and early on his parents enrolled him in programs that helped him stay active and healthy. He began competing in Special Olympics at eight years old and still competes.
Josh participated on his high school wrestling team and won gold medals in swimming, flag football, basketball, power lifting, track and field, volleyball, snowboarding, bowling and golf. He, of course, hit a hole in one.
In 1998 Josh was selected as the Tennessee Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. Soon Josh will compete with his partner, Steve Overlock, in the 2014 USA Games in Unified Golf.
Josh’s strong will, great attitude and supportive family drives him to work hard, and his hard work enables him to overcome adversity. He helps others by volunteering and participating in the annual Polar Plunge.
After Josh proudly received his award he thanked his parents, coaches and others who had helped him, and then with a catch in his throat he declared, “I really am a champion!”
The audience responded with a standing ovation and I saw several quickly swipe away tears. We were reminded that champions aren’t just gifted athletes. They are hard workers who won’t stop when faced with adversity. They overcome.
We have our own champion in the family, our son Matt. He was born with serious and multiple problems that will require special care all his life but against all odds, he thrives. Watching his daily battles and hearing stories of how other people with disabilities have achieved success gives me little patience for folks blessed with strong minds and bodies yet won’t even try.
A quote by Booker T. Washington says it all, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
It was a blessing to see Josh and Rashard receive recognition for being the champions that they are.
Mother wrote in her journal, “God will not hold us accountable for gifts he has not given us, but all of us are responsible to use fully the gifts we do have.”
I need to get up and get busy.