"Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” - Gen. Colin Powell, U.S. Army [Ret.]
Hands down one of the best sports stories ever written came from the pen of Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly in 2003 - and not about unbeaten seasons, no hitters, or down-to-the-wire championship wins. No, Reilly wrote about the best - bar none - tradition in college sports: Picking Up Butch at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Back in 1961, then-13 year-old Butch Varno - who‘s afflicted with cerebral palsy - and his grandmother (who cleaned dormitories at the college) were trying to get home from a football game in the middle of a snowstorm, but Butch‘s wheelchair kept getting stuck. Enter student athlete Roger Ralph, who pulled over and gave them a ride home - kicking off a 45 year tradition at the school.
You see, all freshman basketball and football players at Middlebury - men and women alike - must go and get Butch for every home game, with the basketball players doing this during the football season, with football players swapping roles for the basketball season. Butch gets picked up and wheeled right next to the team bench, with the freshman responsible for getting him hot dogs and soda, as well as helping him eat and drink said goodies. Over the years, though, this Middlebury tradition really expanded - students helped Butch learn to read, get his high school equivalency degree, and became his friends.
When Butch‘s house got flooded out earlier this year, the school and its students rallied to his side. A local church got them temporary housing, while the school provided funds to help renovate an apartment for them - one that would be handicap accessible for Butch. They‘ve even set up a fund to help take care of Butch in he future (You can get more information about that at www.middlebury.edu)
Now THAT, my friends, is a worthy tradition - something that‘s required a long-term commitment on the part of the school and its people, a commitment that hasn‘t flagged in nearly half a century. And that kind of spirit is something many trucking companies and drivers know intimately.
Take truck driver Bill Hutson, for example. Five years ago, Hutson launched a non-profit company dubbed “Table Talk Foundation for Better Living“ that focuses on fixing up the homes of the needy for free.
To get it off the ground, he contributed over $40,000 of his own money - that‘s right, FORTY THOUSAND GREENBACKS, my friends - while also building and selling picnic tables to help keep his charity going. Part of his mission, he told me, is training “the homeless and unemployed in the construction trade, to expand both the work and the help our program can do.”
That‘s a pretty bold long-term effort to sustain, but he‘s doing it. “I have sort of a code that I live by,” Hutson told me by phone. “When I went to fix homes with the contractor who taught me everything, I asked him why he did it and he said this: ‘To the world, you may be just one person, but to one person, you just may be the world.‘ I try to live by that every day.”
You can‘t beat that kind of spirit - something that‘s definitely not in short supply where Bill Hutson and Middlebury College are concerned, it seems.
(If you want to help Hutson out, drop him a line at [email protected])