CRAWFORD | Revisiting five of the most inspiring people I covere - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Revisiting five of the most inspiring people I covered in 2015

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It’s Christmas Eve, and we’re nearing another year’s end, which prompts a slew of stories looking back at the year.

My lists of stories tend to be personal — though there are a couple we’ll roll out in the next few days based purely on statistics.

In this column, I wanted to revisit the most inspiring athletes or sports people I ran across in 2015. The only common thread running through them is that I happened to write about them at one time or another. There were many more on this website, and covered by other media outlets, just as inspirational.

Bad news sells. It spreads faster. I don’t know what it is about our society, or the Internet, but we are drawn to controversy and tragedy. It’s a fact.

But today I’d like to remember five individuals who gave us a little more reason to believe in the human (or equine) spirit in 2015. And I’d invite you to revisit their stories, or explore them if you missed them the first time around.

I’m going to list them as they were reported chronologically. This isn’t a ranking of any kind. If you’re on this list, your story was special.

1. MICHAEL PARRISH. I knew this was going to be a nice story when Scotty Davenport told me that he’d be surprising Parrish with a scholarship during his radio show in January. Parrish grew up, like a lot of kids do in this city, without much, without a father, without water and electricity in some stretches. But in a story that is vitally important in this day of troubled schools, Parrish did not grow up without hope, and he did not grow up without a parent who was constantly working at her role. Deborah Thompson did everything she could do to counter the negative influences outside with a positive force inside.

Parrish kept showing up at Davenport’s camps. He kept asking for a chance. Davenport couldn’t say no. And his mother wouldn’t take no for an answer in applying for grants and aid to help her son pay for such an expensive education.

“Yes, there were times I thought, ‘This is just not going to happen. How am I going to pull this off?'” she told me the day her son was presented a basketball scholarship to Bellarmine.

Parrish, a 5-8 senior guard who is majoring in communications, has started nine of Bellarmine’s ten games this season, and is the team’s No. 5 scorer and second on the team in assists.

Give a big assist, as well, to a mother who stayed engaged, and a coach who saw an opportunity not only to work with a young player, but to send a powerful community message. Read his story here.

2. LARRY JONES. The longtime thoroughbred trainer is best known for two things — riding some of his own horses during training hours, and training some of the best fillies in the nation.

In April of 2014, Jones fell off a horse and sustained a head injury. He had to be placed in a medically induced coma for two days. When he woke up, the doctors told him to knock it off with the riding horses thing.

You might as well tell the sun to stop rising.

“The real problem wasn't with me riding horses," Jones said. "The problem was me falling off."

When doctors told him he might not have another fall in him, Jones replied, “Oh, I have another fall in me. It's another get-up I might not have.”

So Jones got into the saddle, went back to work, and 13 months later was in the Kentucky Oaks winners circle for a third time, with the filly Lovely Maria, whose own story, and the story of her jockey and owner, is inspiring in itself.

I guess folks like Jones tell me that there are some things in life that are worth falling for, if they’re some of the things you live for. Read about him here.

3. TEDDY BRIDGEWATER. It probably didn’t surprise anyone who knew Bridgewater pretty well that he would make a special trip to Louisville, via a flight from Las Vegas, to take a local girl to the Christian Academy prom.

But it does restore your faith in the average pro athlete just a bit more.

Bridgewater took Ashley Davis to the prom in May, after her mother ran into Bridgewater at an event earlier and arranged the surprise.

Her father, J.P. Davis, described how Bridgewater sat and visited with the family for an hour or so, how he asked Ashley how she wanted to handle any media attention that might come.

At the prom, everybody wanted pictures with Bridgewater. At every request, Bridgewater turned to Ashley and said, “Can we do this picture?”

“He told her, ‘It's not about me, it's about you and whatever you want to do,'” J.P. Davis said. “They talked in the car. Ashley is kind of shy. But you know, she took it all in stride. . . . You just can't imagine how nice a guy this is. You witness it one-on-one how nice he is. How thoughtful, courteous, soft-spoken. He doesn't say a whole lot.”

I said in my story that Bridgewater seems to leave a trail of kindness.

Something to aspire to. Read about Bridgewater's prom experience here.

4. GENUINE REWARD. All right this isn’t a person, but it took some inspiring people to get the first living foal of Kentucky Derby winning filly Genuine Risk back to Kentucky.

When Genuine Reward showed up on Craigslist after 17 years as a stallion in Virginia and Wyoming, a number of watchful horse people got motivated. They were worried he was going to wind up in a slaughterhouse. They’d already begun to try to organize an effort to get the horse to a good home when author Laura Hillenbrand stepped in. A longtime horse lover and advocate for their well-being, Hillenbrand offered to cover the cost of Genuine Reward’s relocation to Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Ky.

Michael Blown, president of Old Friends, said the colt arrived in perfect shape, and he’s been enjoying life at the farm.

The inspiring thing about this story is that it shows the depth of devotion to horses to many here and around the nation. Genuine Reward never made it to the race track. His was a widely celebrated birth. But he never lived up to the promise of his breeding.

Still, people remembered, even after 22 years. Read the story of Genuine Reward here.

5. KYLE KURIC. I can’t imagine waking up with a headache one day and facing brain surgery the next. But that’s essentially what happened to former University of Louisville basketball standout Kyle Kuric while playing for his team in Spain.

Doctors diagnosed him with a brain tumor threatening his central nervous system and determined that he needed prompt surgery. His father, a brain surgeon himself in the U.S., said the family worried that he couldn’t survive the flight back to the U.S.

Kuric has infant twins. He’d lived what looked like storybook life. But he came close to losing it. After the surgery, swelling on the brain was so severe that doctors had to remove a portion of his skull to allow for the swelling. For most of two days, he was in a medically induced coma. His wife and family, as you might imagine, were worried beyond words.

Then they arrived at his room and he smiled at them. Today, he’s back with his team in Gran Canaria, anticipating the day when he can get back onto the court. The video of his arrival is something to see.

Through all this, Kuric still maintained his various charity drives for children in Louisville and in Spain around the holidays.

We know how much people around here love Kyle Kuric. Watch the reaction of this crowd in Spain when Kuric walked back out onto the arena floor Tuesday.

Inspiration enough for anyone. Watch Elizabeth Woolsey’s recent interview, via Skype, with Kyle Kuric here.

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