Special Athletes Overcome Challenges to Achieve Dreams
The Pittsburg Special Olympics team, the New Hope Bulldogs traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska during the month of October, in pursuit of a national flag football championship.
29-year-old Chevi Peters was born in Parsons, Kansas, he's a fighter on and off the football field.
"I survived 38 surgeries," says Peters.
"He's unbelievable that guy works year around for this sport he loves football," said Head Coach John Lair.
Doctors didn't expect Chevi to live past the age of two. He suffers from a rare life threatening condition called Biliary Atresia.
Peters says, "A liver transplant, a metal plate in my head, and a kidney transplant are the major surgeries I had. When I was seven I had a stroke when I was nine I had another stroke and I was in a coma for 16 days."
But Chevi overcame the odds. In 2003 he graduated from St. Paul High School in Kansas and became a volunteer firefighter.
"I feel like a miracle child because my inspiration is my parents because they never gave up on me during my difficult times so I never gave up on them," said Peters.
Although for Chevi something was missing. His dream was to play on a team, with other athletes, against other teams. That wish came true in 2008 when he joined the New Hope Bulldogs.
New Hope is partnered with Special Olympics. More than 4.2 million children and adults with development disabilities train and compete around the world.
"I'm doing it for those who don't get the chance to get to play football. I'm doing it for those that passed on at New Hope that are in heaven right now," said Peters.
The Bulldog hope to clinch their first national flag football title in Lincoln, Nebraska.
"Well we had about sixty practices we've played in two other tournaments its been a long year the guys are ready and hopefully we come ready to play and have a good time," says Head Coach John Lair.
"Well it's always been a dream for us to get a national championship, but we always get caught up in a difficult situation but somehow we come out of it... its our dream to become national champions," said Peters.
For 22 year old Cody Pierce it's another day that wasn't promised.
"Special Olympics is the greatest thing that ever happened to me I don't know what I would do if I didn't join new hope." Cody Pierce.
Growing up in a sports family Cody had hopes and dreams to be a collegiate athlete.
His father John Pierce, known as Coach Pierce at Pittsburg State, is an assistant football coach for the university.
"He's been around it all his life I played here and coached here for a long time and his mother was a great athlete here and she's in our athletics hall of fame so we played out in the yard and done stuff," said Coach Pierce.
But due to Cody's health, the odds of a collegiate career are slim to none.
"My doctor wouldn't allow me to because I have an implant cardio-defibrillator heart condition," said Cody.
The implanted device will detect any fatal heart failure and shock the heart. But it prevents him from playing contact sports.
Doctor's diagnosed Cody with Romano-Ward Syndrome which has to do with the electrical system with the heart.
Cody's heart has stopped more than a dozen times in his life.
"It's not been an eliminating factor on anything he can do and he does it all," he said. "I'm glad I get to do it because I get to live my dream."
But for Cody winning isn't everything
"I'll accept a championship but even if we don't I'll just play my hardest until that final whistle blows," said
With one game in between the team and a gold medal, the New Hope Bulldogs compete against their rivals, Team Nebraska.
A team they lost to last year in the final rounds. Going into halftime the bulldogs are down by 10 points.
In the final two minutes the bulldogs score a touchdown. The next play, Team Nebraska throws an interception.
With one minute left on the clock the bulldogs go into a hurry up offense, with time for one more play.
"A lot of people think well they are special so they as great athletes. But in my eyes they are the greatest athletes in the world," said Coach Aaron Thompson.
The New Hope Bulldogs ended third in the tournament. They set out on a quest to win a national championship, that didn't happen. But what they came back with is a new goal for next year.
For more information on Special Olympics click here.