Young athletes who display True Grit are real heroes

March 05, 2006|By TONY MULIERI

It's getting harder to find heroes on the world stage anymore.

A case in point was the recently completed Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. One of the few True Grit stories was U.S. skier Lindsey Kildow, who took a nasty spill in a downhill training run only to come back to finish eighth in the event just 48 hours after leaving her hospital bed.

The Olympics anymore seem to be more about what kind of endorsements can I get before I go. It used to be that you had to win a gold medal first, then they would put your face on a Wheaties box. U.S. skier Bode Miller didn't have to win any medals. He had endorsement gold before he left the states.

I used to look to pro sports for my heroes. That's hard to do now. Most of those athletes seem more interested in promoting themselves than becoming role models for others.


No, the real heroes in the world are the U.S. servicemen and servicewomen serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the humanitarians we don't even know about who travel to far off places to rescue orphaned children affected by natural disasters and wars.

Locally, you can look to the many police officers, firefighters, correctional officers, nurses, EMTs, rescue squad workers, teachers, coaches, etc. to gain inspiration. They are the ones who are on the front lines, helping people every day.

Take Washington County Deputy 1st Class David Norford, for instance, who entered a burning building in downtown Hagerstown last year to save three children. He's a real local hero in my book.

Fortunately, in Washington County, we have another outlet to honor some young local heroes and it's called the True Grit Awards Banquet.

This year's banquet is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9, at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway.

If you are not familiar with the True Grit Award, it is given to student-athletes who might not be the stars of their teams, but have overcome an affliction or sickness or some other obstacle to remain members of a team.

Sometimes, they might be second string, or a statistician or a team manager. But what they have all shown is that stick-to-it-tiveness that we try to instill in young people.

The recipients at last year's banquet were incredible. Their stories were so unbelievable that Hollywood wouldn't even attempt to tell them. I left the Sheraton thinking my life has been easy compared to what some of these young people have been through, and they're not yet out of high school.

It will be difficult for area coaches and athletic directors to top last year's crew of True Grit winners. This is the time of the year when they are considering who to nominate from their respective schools. An athlete from each public and private high school in the county and a student from HCC are given the award, which includes a $500 scholarship to continue his or her education and a year's free membership to the Hagerstown YMCA.

A banquet such as this doesn't happen unless area businesses are willing to sponsor these scholarships.

They don't get a lot of bang for the buck either - a listing in the program and perhaps a plug in the paper. I don't even have space to list them here.

But I have a feeling that the businesses that do participate do so because they see the benefit in helping these young people. Most of them send a representative to the banquet. I'll bet most of them leave the Sheraton with a good feeling.

Tony Mulieri is managing editor of The Daily Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7647, or by e-mail at

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