True Champions

By April 26, 2013 No Comments

I am extremely fortunate to work with some amazing students as a teacher and coach. I am lucky enough to help serve as one of our school’s FCA Huddle Coaches. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences being a teacher. For the past four years, our Huddle has partnered with DASA (Disabled Athlete Sports Association) to put on an event called “Day of Champions.” It’s an event where disabled and non-disabled athletes come together for a day of fellowship and fun. The focus of the day is teaching the non-disabled student athletes how challenging and competitive the DASA athletic events are, and how talented the disabled athletes are. This year we were fortunate to have two student speakers from DASA. They were absolutely amazing and their stories touched me. They are true champions and are the focus on this week’s post.

Our first speaker was a 9th grade student from Troy, Missouri named Katie Ladlie. Two years ago, Katie had to make the unbelievably tough decision to have her leg amputated. Katie was born with a condition that caused her to have too many blood vessels in her leg, leading to muscle atrophy and eventually to a state in which the bones of her knee were rubbing against one another. Katie’s strength and toughness were something that stood out to me. Most people would not be able to handle a difficult situation and decision such as this. Katie told us how she found the strength and courage through God to turn her “why me” moment into a “why not me” moment.

As I was listening to Katie talk, I thought about all the times where I think my life may be rough or that I’ve been wronged about something. I felt terrible for ever thinking these things when I’ve been blessed not to have to go through a situation like Katie’s and make the decision she had to. Katie reminded me not take anything for granted and to enjoy the blessings I’ve been given.

It was truly inspiring to hear Katie talk about how she has not let her experience stop her from living and achieving a happy life. She excels in many sports now and is an example for all on how we can turn a negative situation into something positive that will inspire others. It’s hard to believe that Katie is only a freshman in high school given her positive attitude and outlook on life. I hope I can be more like Katie on a consistent basis.

Our second speaker was a recent college graduate from in St. Charles, Missouri named Troy Beirnbaum. Around the age of three, Troy’s mother noticed he wasn’t developing at the same rate of kids his age. After seeing a neurologist, Troy was diagnosed with Duchesne Disease, which is a form of muscular dystrophy. This disease, affecting only boys, involves the lack of a protein that is essential for muscles to function properly. One’s muscles will slowly deteriorate over time. The life expectancy for people with this disease is 25 years and Troy is less than a year away from that average age.

As I sat and listened to Troy, I couldn’t begin to think of the challenges he’s had to go through in his life and what he must endure on a daily basis. I feel bad when I have back pain, I cut a finger, or pull a muscle. When I reflect on what Troy deals with, however, I realize how fortunate I am. The most amazing thing about Troy is that he doesn’t ask for his disease to go away. He accepts it. He told us about how a 5th grader once asked him if he would walk again if he had the choice. Troy said no, he wouldn’t change a thing, because he accepts who he is and the challenges that come with having this disease. He said this disease has taught him patience, to accept help, and that we’re not meant to live alone. What a remarkable way to look at things.

Troy talked about how this disease has forced him to live every day in the present and not worry about the future. This is a good reminder for how we should all live our lives—not worrying about the future, but focusing on each day as it comes. As Troy said, “What good will worrying do?”

Troy accepts that his condition is a part of God’s plan for him and that there is a purpose for him having the disease. By becoming involved in wheelchair soccer, Troy has the opportunity to compete with other athletes, be independent, and be a member of a team. This is what sports are all about. By playing wheelchair soccer, Troy proves that he has talents and abilities despite what the disease has taken from him.

Troy talked about how there are days when it is tough and he feels like giving up. I can only imagine how that must feel, but being in Troy’s presence and listening to him talk made me realize he doesn’t give in to those thoughts. Troy talked about how he turns to his faith to help provide the strength needed to battle through those moments. He told our students that how he acts and deals with his situation is one way he can show love and be an instrument of God. Troy believes that God has a plan for all of our challenges. Truly inspirational stuff.

Katie and Troy are remarkable people and my words don’t do them justice. In sports we all strive to be champions on the court or field. However, it’s more important to be a champion in life than it is in sports. There is absolutely no doubt that Katie and Troy are true champions in life. They have been given challenges most of us don’t have to deal with, yet they accept them and persevere through them to live life to its fullest. That’s the key: to live, to really live life. They are inspiring examples on how we all should live our lives.

I’m going to leave you with two final thoughts from Troy: 1) “Love Never Fails” 2) “Never Give Up and Feel Sorry for Yourself.”

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!


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