Many years ago, I attended an event where legendary Olympic decathlon Gold Medalist Bob Richards spoke about the connection between generations of Olympic Athletes. He described his discussions with other Olympians each of whom recounted to him the exact day in their childhood when their personal Olympic quest began.
In each instance, an existing Olympian had come to their school, or their camp, or their church to speak about the path that had taken them to the largest athletic stage in the World: the Olympic Games. On each of those days, the kids met greatness in the flesh and listened to the story of their own personal small beginnings, of the decision to strive to excel, of the commitment to try a little harder, to seek a better performance and to focus on excellence; simply put: to do their very best. For 6 generations backward, he traced the specific day that the flame had been sparked in a small child who soon grew to replace their inspiration on the world stage.
Today, I got to go to such an event. I saw not just one Olympian, but two, happily toiling together in the hot humid sun of summer to celebrate and give back to the kids and coaches that they once were themselves.
Three time Olympian, multiple GOLD Medalist, and multiple world record holder "Butch" Reynolds has, for 15 years, returned to his home in Akron, Ohio to stage the Butch Reynolds Care for Kids Foundation, Track and Fun Camp. This year, he called upon 2008 Olympic Team member and North American Boxing Association Jr. Middleweight Champion, Shawn Porter (a fellow Akronite) asking him if he might like to come down and talk to the kids too.
(Shawn (L) and Butch (R) spend a minute connecting.)
For Shawn, it was a no brainer. Anywhere there are kids and sports, Shawn is always as available as his busy schedule permits.
So, this year, over 200 kids from several organizations came to a playground to run together, to have fun and compete. They got to meet and interact with each other and these two history making athletes. Kids were everywhere. They ranged from tiny to preteens. All just being kids together. No big entourages were present. No media. Just two guys that wanted to say to these kids that if they did it, so can you, to kids from all walks of life.
When you see the look on a 6 year olds face when he first sees Shawn display a REAL professional title belt shining in the sun; when you see these famous guys drop down to their knees to tie a kid’s shoestring or just spend 3 minutes in real conversation connecting with a kid that can be changed forever; you (and they) forget the thousands of hours of work and dedication they each had to demand of themselves to be able to be real to the kids. You also see the beginnings of the idea of greatness light in the eyes of those kids that are touched by the possibility of future accomplishments. "All anybody can ask is that you try your best. That's all we ask of you today." said Reynolds. "I came to this very track to run when I was getting ready to go to Beijing." said Shawn.
(Butch & Shawn address the crowd before the running started)
Every one of these kids ran a little harder today; and a few will run harder for ever, I think. We owe these and many other great under appreciated athletes and volunteers a debt of thanks far beyond what we know. Neither of them would miss a meal if he chose not to come do this ever again. Yet, neither of them is ever likely to forego the chance to be there. The truth is they want to be out there where they began, with the kids again. You can see it on their faces.
There are great advantages in being "the photographer!" You get to go extremely fun places and hang with people you might NEVER get to interact with otherwise. Today I got to hang with 200+ kids, two of which were a little taller and played like fun was the only record they were aiming for.
You can visit multiple Olympic Medalist and World Record setting runner Butch Reynolds at: www.BRworldclassspeed.com
You can visit former Olympic Team member and Professional North American Boxing Organization Jr Middleweight Champion Shawn Porter at:www.shawnporterboxing.com