MANSFIELD — Eight young people will be honored Wednesday for displaying grace and courage in the face of handicaps, problems or personal tragedy.
As recipients of Mansfield Rotary Club’s 40th annual McGowan Courage Awards, each will receive an education fund award of $750 and other gifts during a luncheon at the Mid-Ohio Conference Center. Richland Bank will give each a $100 savings account.
Kelly has Spinal Cerebella Ataxia Type 2, a hereditary disease that causes changes in the brain and spinal cord resulting in an uncoordinated walk, poor eye-hand coordination and abnormal speech. She refuses special help getting around at school and does so without complaining while maintaining a respectable grade-point average.
In 2003 Eckert was at track practice when she was injured and later diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome. She suffers from a constant, severe headache. Eckert travels to Michigan every few months to see a specialist at the Michigan Head Pain & Neurological Institute, where she has injections into her spine and neck. She has missed almost a year of school, but still is involved in many school and church activities.
Harrod has overcome family problems, including her mother’s battle with cancer. She had to leave her mother and school in another state to make a new home with her grandparents in Lucas, where she has turned her life around. She has become active in her school and church, where she excels in music, and maintains a B average while working part-time at a music store.
Shank lost her father when she was in the second grade. She then moved to the Philippines, her mother’s native country, where she attended third grade and part of the fourth grade. She moved back to the United States in the fourth grade to live with her aunt, then back to the Philippines to be with her mother, who died of cancer when Shank was 13. After her mother’s death, she moved to Lexington to live with cousins. Shank speaks four languages and does well in school.
In 2005, Futty was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a common form of Juvenile Macular Degeneration, which caused her vision to deteriorate to the point that she is considered legally blind. She also suffers from Basilar Migraine headaches,which can cause strokes later in life and make walking difficult. She has endured her ordeal with poise and maturity and has not allowed her afflictions to interfere with school or other activities.
In her sophomore year, Laux began to lose her hearing, sight and balance. In order to continue at school, she learned sign language. She continues to take part in school activities and has prompted many others in her school to learn to sign while being an inspiration to students and staff.
In his junior year, Knowlton was diagnosed with Aspergers’ Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. With his family, he has learned responsibility and how to deal with life’s challenges as he has helped his mother in her struggle against cancer. He has earned the respect of teachers, counselors and friends who have helped him through his difficulties. As a result, he has been able to remain active in the school and community while maintaining an excellent grade-point average and school attendance record.
Baldridge has had several surgeries to correct leg and foot problems caused by cerebral palsy, which have created other difficulties. In spite of all that he has become a valuable member of the school’s basketball team as a manager. With strong character, he has overcome his disability and earned the respect of teachers from elementary through high school who describe him as conscientious, organized, polite and respectful.