Inspiration provided at True Grit event

May 14, 2006|by TONY MULIERI

South Hagerstown High School's Dustin Carr had to get a lift up to get to the platform to receive his True Grit award at Tuesday night's banquet at the Four Points Sheraton.

You see, Dustin has cerebral palsy, but that hasn't stopped him from competing in track and field and cross country at South High.

He might have had to get a lift up, but he gave everyone in the room a lift in spirit after South High teacher Ann Platou's inspiring testimonial about him.

The audience gave him a standing O.

Dustin was the last to receive his award that night, and as he made his way to the podium with the help of a cane, you had to wonder just how does this young man compete in track and field and cross country? He has completed six 5K cross-country and throws the shotput and discus for the track team.


Oh, yeah, he sometimes competes in the 55-meter and 100-meter dashes.

He is a surviving twin.

He is a survivor, period.

These are the kinds of stories that are told at the True Grit banquet.

Keynote speaker Nelson Lauver, aka "The Great American Storyteller," embodies the spirit of True Grit, too. He couldn't read or write until the age of 29, and now is a syndicated radio personality who can be heard in more than 60 markets in the U.S., including on WJEJ (1240 AM) in Hagerstown.

Lauver received a high school diploma, but there was just one problem - he couldn't read it. He was painting lines in a parking lot when a chance meeting with a stranger asking for directions changed his life. It turned out Lauver had dyslexia, which causes the brain to interpret words and sentences differently than most people.

He was able to overcome it.

His message at the banquet was, "If you get knocked down, get back up."

And that was the theme Tuesday night.

We heard about Boonsboro's Adam Dellinger, who was involved in a near-fatal car accident in December 2004. He spent a long time in the hospital. He was able to return to school in the spring of 2005, and played on the soccer team last fall.

The accident changed his life, but not his spirit. During his rehabilitation, he was able to become an Eagle Scout.

There were 14 student athletes honored Tuesday night, and not all of their stories were as stirring as Dustin's or Adam's, but they all showed they were able to "get back up" from adversity.

The True Grit awards are given each year to student-athletes in the county who might not be the stars of their team, but have overcome physical disabilities or other obstacles to remain members of the team.

They each receive a $500 scholarship to continue their education at the schools of their choice, and a year's free membership to the Hagerstown YMCA.

And this banquet wouldn't be possible unless several area businesses stepped up to the plate to sponsor these scholarships.

For me, the True Grit banquet each year provides an inspirational lift. When I wake up and complain about a little ache or pain, all I have to do is think about student-athletes such as Dustin Carr.

That makes it all worthwhile.

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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