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My Wish: Don't Get Swept Away as a Teen, by Dave Boon

Uncommon Success Stories

These stories give you real world examples of how other have achieved “uncommon success” in their lives. Some are famous, others not so famous, but all have overcome difficult challenges and obstacles on their road to success. Visit this site often and check out the new “Uncommon Success Stories” and if you know of a story that inspires you please let us know about it too!

The Foundation for a Better Life

Bethany Hamilton (surfer)

Rudy Garcia Tolson (athlete)

Coach Herman Boone (coach in "Remember the Titans")

Susan Butcher (Ididarod Champion)

Chris Klug (Organ Transplantee and Olympic Champion)

Ellen Ochoa (First Female Hispanic Astronaut)

Whoopi Goldberg (Dyslexic Actress)

Shaquille O’Neal (College Graduate and NBA Superstar)

Bethany Hamilton - Bethany has been surfing since before she could walk. In 2002, at the Volcom Puffer Fish surfing contest she placed 1st in 14-under girls, 1st in 17-under girls, and 2nd in 12-under boys – yes boys! As of April 2002 Bethany was rated 1st in Open Women's, 2nd in Open Girls, and 2nd in Menehune Boys in the Kauai Surfing Federation. At 13 years old, Bethany Hamilton has already achieved many of her dreams and was ranked #8 in the world as an amateur surfing champion Things changed for Bethany on Halloween morning, October 31, 2003. Tragedy struck that morning – it struck Bethany hard and fast! At about 7:30 am, a ~14-foot shark emerged from the water below Bethany and took a 17-inch-wide bite out of her orange, white and blue surfboard. It also bit off Bethany’s left arm just below the shoulder. Bethany is recovering and is well on her way back to achieving her goal of becoming a professional surfer.

Rudy Garcia Tolson – Rudy was born with Pterygium Syndrome which resulted in a club foot, webbed fingers on both hands, and a cleft lip and palate. By the age of 5, he had already gone through over 15 surgeries and was confined to a wheelchair. It was then, that doctors gave Rudy the choice between remaining in a wheelchair or walking with the help of prosthetics. He chose to have greater mobility and a full, active life with prosthetics, which required the surgical amputation of both his legs through the knee. Rudy decided to try running after building his swimming resume, a sport he trains for 5 days a week at two hours a day. He competes against adults and holds national records in swimming and track.

Coach Herman Boone - In 1971, Herman Boone faced the challenge of a lifetime, and his inspirational story was captured in the Disney film Remember the Titans starring Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington. Coach Boone was named head coach of the Titans, passing over Bill Yoast, the local favorite and successful head coach of the former white Hammond High. Remarkably, the two coaches were able to put aside their prejudices, and in doing so they unified their players to form a team whose common vision was to respect each other and win football games. At the same time, through the game of football, Boone and Yoast were able to help their small Virginian community put aside their intolerance and join together to support their children. The Titans became one of the best teams in Virginia, compiling a 13-0 record and went on to win the state championship.

"Never rest until your good becomes better and your better becomes best." - Coach Herman Boone

Susan Butcher - There is only one woman who enters a race called the Iditarod, that takes her 1,161 miles across the Alaskan wilderness, enduring 100 m.p.h. winds, arctic blizzards, snow blindness, wild animals, thin ice, sleep deprivation, avalanches, and whatever else nature feels like throwing at a person up in the land of the midnight sun -- and wins three times in a row. That woman is Susan Butcher. She went to Colorado State University, and became a veterinary technician even though she had dyslexia. She is also the only person ever to win the 1,161 mile Iditarod three consecutive times.

Chris Klug - This guy's got an amazing story. After being diagnosed with a rare liver disease and receiving a liver transplant he made the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team and competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Later that day they place a Bronze Olympic Medal around his neck – the first organ transplantee to compete in any Olympics. Talk about a comeback.

Ellen Ochoa - "I can only imagine the amazement and pride my grandparents would feel, having been born in Mexico in the 1870s, on knowing that their granddaughter grew up to travel in space." Ellen became the first female Hispanic astronaut on our planet – pretty cool! Their move to the United States to raise their family along with her mother's passion for learning provided her with the opportunity and motivation to get an education and set high goals. Many doors opened for her when she completed college. What does Ellen say to others, "I encourage all Latinos to seek out interesting, challenging careers -- these are within your grasp if you are willing to study and work hard!"

Whoopi Goldberg - Whoopi was born in New York City in 1955, as Caryn Johnson. She spent the first years of her life in a public housing project in Manhattan. Over the course of a turbulent early life, she survived poverty, drug addiction, single motherhood and a stint on welfare to become one of America's most beloved entertainers.

Whoopi also struggled with dyslexia and, as a result, dropped out of high school. "I knew I wasn't stupid, and I knew I wasn't dumb. My mother told me that. Everybody told me I wasn't stupid or dumb. If you read to me, I could tell you everything that you read. They didn't know what it was. They knew I wasn't lazy, but what was it?" When she was an adult, she finally found the reason for her reading struggles - dyslexia. She said it still takes effort, but time and hard work has made it easier for her to read.

Shaquille O'Neal – Shaquille O'Neal or Shaq, as the world knows him, is one of the most dominating professional basketball players in NBA history. Towering at over seven feet, he has shattered records including winning three NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, MVP in each of those finals, led the league in field goal percentage five times, and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. No small feat given the competition in this world-class environment.

There is another accomplishment that is less well-known but extremely important to Shaq. When he was drafted to the pros from Louisiana State University in his junior year, he made a promise that he would return to finish his degree. One might wonder why he would worry about graduating since he had such a lucrative career and did not appear to need a diploma to be more successful in life. But he had made a commitment to his mother, his school and himself. And he likes to keep his promises. It was not easy—he attended 9 summer school sessions and finally reached his goal of graduating in December of 2000 with a BA in General Studies and a minor in Political Science. Unfortunately, the ceremony in Louisiana was scheduled on a game night. In a clear demonstration of what was really important he got permission to miss the game—though at a financial cost to him—and walked through the line to mark this important milestone in his life. A promise kept and statement made that life really is more than a game.