January 1, 2006

Positivity: Top 10 Inspiring (and Mostly Unnoticed) Sports Life Stories of 2005

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:00 pm

Douglas E. Abrams apparently does a list like this every year. Good for him. Here’s hoping he has 10 times as much material to work with at the end of 2006:

Here are my 2005 “Top 10 Inspiring News Stories” about winners whose most enduring victories never appear in the box scores.

10. The Lee High School girls basketball team lost most of its games last winter by lopsided scores, including two by 62-4. The Houston, Texas squad also won respect. “I see them out there running around and trying,” an opposing coach said, “and you can’t help but be impressed by their heart.”

9. At 81, Lexington (Mass.) High School’s Billy Tighe is probably the nation’s oldest high school head football coach. “The best kids I have coached,” he says, “have been all the kids I have coached.”

8. Connecticut hockey legend Dick Gagliardi retired in May for the second time. The 72-year-old Gagliardi closed out his 47-year-coaching career by stepping down as athletic director at Sacred Heart Academy, eight years after retiring as a high school math teacher and state champion coach.

“Success,” he told his retirement dinner, “is not measured by scores or trophies, but by the players’ respect for themselves and their game.”

7. When David Vince coaches varsity baseball at Florida’s Monarch High School, he walks on two wooden prosthetic legs, the results of a birth defect that led to childhood amputations.

“We know he’s overcome a lot,” said his pitcher, “so if we miss a ground ball or strike out, we know we can go to him, and he’ll remind us we can do it.”

6. Erin Keitges, 16, is one of Nebraska’s top high school distance runners, with pace-setting times in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs this year. She has also battled cystic fibrosis since birth.

5. Bobby Martin returned to action with the Colonel White High School varsity football team in September, a week after referees ordered him from the field for not wearing shoes. Ohio authorities reinstated Martin, who was born without legs. He also wrestles and wants to throw the shot put on the track team this spring. (more on Bobby Martin here–Ed.)

4. Nelson Acosta of Palmdale, California completed his 34th season as a youth baseball umpire, even though he is dying of cancer. Acosta, 54, keeps his priorities straight: “The job of a youth league umpire is to protect the children’s safety, to protect fair play, to make sure the kids have a good time without people jumping all over them.”

3. Seven-year-old Julianna Reala plays baseball in her Staten Island, New York Little League’s Challenger Division. Such leagues enable special-needs children such as Julianna, who was born without eyes, to play a variety of sports.

2. Thirteen-year-old Peter Kwon of Martinez, Fla. returned to the soccer field this August, a year after rebounding from cancer treatment and a heart transplant. “I’ll try to score some goals,” he said, “You need some goals to win.”

1. In her North Dallas, Texas home, 86-year-old Ann McClamrock cares for her bedridden son John, as she has during almost every waking hour since he was paralyzed from the neck down in a high school football game 32 years ago.

“I’m just a mother,” she says, rejecting any special credit for three decades of around-the-clock devotion.

These heroes, and hundreds more whose stories may never reach the newspapers, set a positive example we all need in our daily lives.

Positivity: Iraqi Baby Headed to US for Medical Treatment

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:33 am

A great New Year’s opener:

MIAMI (Reuters) – U.S. soldiers in Iraq encountered a baby girl with a life-threatening birth defect during a raid at her family’s home and arranged to send her to their home state of Georgia for medical treatment, hospital officials said on Friday.

The baby, 3-month-old Noor, was due to arrive on Saturday at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a pediatric hospital that is donating surgery and other care for the infant, hospital spokeswoman Kristina Flynn said.

Noor was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column fails to completely close, leaving part of the spinal cord exposed and susceptible to life-threatening infection.

Soldiers with the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Brigade Combat Team searched her family’s home in a poor Baghdad neighborhood earlier this month, looking for insurgents. They found none, but the baby’s grandmother showed the soldiers the purple pouch protruding from the child’s back and the soldiers sought help in finding her treatment.

“All I could think of was my five children back at home and my young daughter,” one of the soldiers involved, Lt. Jeff Morgan, told CNN.

“And I knew if I had the opportunity whatsoever to save my daughter’s life, I would do everything possible. So my heart just kind of went out to this baby and these parents who … were living in poverty and had no means to help their baby.”

The military flew the infant, her father and grandmother on Friday to Kuwait, where they were to catch a commercial flight to Atlanta.

Childspring International, a children’s medical charity, set up the trip and arranged for the baby’s relatives to stay with an Arabic-speaking family while the infant undergoes medical treatment in Atlanta.