The following is a powerful story of how One Coach and our program made a difference in the life of one student, as told by the student's mother.
"I'd like to share a little background on Cameron Wright before going into why he deserves the Jerry Seiner Leadership award. Cameron is the oldest of 4 children in his family. He is also the only boy so he often times has gotten lost in the sea of girls at our home. His dad has traveled excessively for work and when Cameron was young, we took him all over the country with us for his dad's job. He learned from a very young age to sit still and behave and has always been a very easy going, "go with the flow" child. Because of our travels, we home schooled him until he was in the 4th grade. Before he turned 10 years old, he had already been to almost all the 50 states and even lived in Mexico for a time. Although, this was great cultural experience, he lacked having friends and never really learned to interact with kids his age or do the things kids do. Looking back, we can see how this has impacted his life. We saw social disabilities so, we decided that I would stay put with the kids to give them stability which meant we would have to sacrifice having "dad" around. We enrolled Cameron in public school and "boy" sports such as baseball and basketball to help him feel a part of his peers and age group. Although he liked basketball a lot, he never found a true passion for it. Life went on, but as parents, we started to worry a lot about Cameron because he seemed to be going into a deep state of depression. He smiled little, lacked confidence, dressed lazy, didn't care about school and cared little for himself or those around him. Despite our best efforts to help him be happy, it just seemed like he wasn't and he spent a lot of time on video games or secluding himself from our family and even friends. This worried us to the core and we prayed for something or someone to come along that could help him find joy in life. One day, in early Spring, Cameron's uncle called (who works for Specialized) and told us we should have Cameron join the Utah High School Mountain Bike team. So, I called the head coach to find out more information. As we looked into it, we thought, how could we ever afford this? Besides that, Cam hasn't even ridden a mountain bike and surely doesn't even own one. We saw dollar signs galore, but we were praying to find something to help him find joy in life, so we decided to talk to Cameron about it. Right away, his face lit up and he said, "Yes!" It was the most excitement he had shown in a long time. Before we knew it, Cam's Uncle (Jason) found Cameron a bike and we were going to our first registration meeting for the Flying Monkeys. Ron Jensen, the head coach said something in that meeting that hit home to me. He said, "Kids that have joined the Flying Monkeys have more confidence, respect and love for life and are outside enjoying the outdoors rather than inside playing video games." He also talked about the camaraderie that the team has and that they expect everyone to cheer for each other...not just our team, but all teams. This was exactly what Cam needed. At that moment, we knew this was for our family. Cameron continued to show excitement and he couldn't wait for training to start. He started to show responsibility as he gathered his bike, helmet, water, etc together for his first practice. After his first practice, he was happy. I asked him if he made any friends because surely with the smile on his face, he must have. He said, "No, but he liked riding the bike." Wow. Ok. So practice number two came along and when I picked him up, it was apparent he had wrecked pretty good. I learned he endo'd over his handle bars going down a hill. Still, a smile on his face. I thought, "Still smiling...this is good!" ...Throughout the season, Cameron continued to show excitement and his life was happier...our family was happier. My relationship with my son was becoming...well, a relationship! Cam was showing he was feeling better about himself. He started making goals and one day decided to better himself and get clips for his bike. More crashes came, but he was determined to learn how to use them and be a better rider. He pushed himself and went out of his way to learn to ride with clips and is a better rider because of it. This is just one example of how Cam has shown more confidence and how he has pushed himself. It is a true miracle for our family and specifically for Cameron. This is a life change. He not only demonstrates this by being on the Flying Monkeys team, but in life. Before school started, we took him school shopping for clothes (which he has never cared about). As his mom, I had been dreading this because for the last two years he had only wanted to wear sport shorts and t-shirts (ugh!). I had been trying to get him to dress better but he never wanted to. However, this year, the first item he grabbed was a button down denim shirt with rolled sleeves (What?!). My eyes lit up, and I was in shock! His whole wardrobe was of nice clothing, not one pair of sport shorts!! His wardrobe isn't the only thing that has changed. He cares for himself more by exercising and choosing healthier foods. Our family loves ice cream and he has been known to skip dessert because he is in "training". He has cut out soda and has even been spotted eating some vegetables! Through mountain biking, he has gained love and self confidence for himself and is now taking better care of himself. And others. School started and he now comes home and completes his homework at the dinner table and then does his chores without being asked. He is also involved in service projects for others and church activities as well. Cameron helps with his sisters and likes spending time with and making them laugh. We are seeing him hang out with "good" friends more and being responsible. He has shown more respect to others by standing tall, looking people in the eye and speaking louder and more clearly. He is still a bit shy, but he used to slouch, look down and mumble a lot, so he has come a long way in the last 6 months. Results don't lie and we are so excited for his future and see a whole new Cameron. In fact, we have received many compliments on this and anyone who knew Cameron before mountain biking can agree a major change has taken place in his life. During practices (and in school), Cameron has pushed himself to get to know others and during races, he cheers for everyone. In the Eagle Mountain race, he was concerned one of his teammates was having a hard time so he ran alongside her to the finish line to help cheer her up. This was BIG for Cameron and shows that he is willing to go outside of himself to help others. Earlier in the season, he convinced a friend of his to join the team because he knew she would love it and be good at it. She joined the team late and he took it upon himself to help train her and show her the things she had missed in earlier practices. He continues to make sure she has a ride to practices and especially races. It is so nice to watch him go above and beyond, to watch out for and include others no matter their circumstances. Cameron also has two cousins that race for a SLC team and one of them races in his same category. His cousin has raced faster and made podium and even though some of our family teases Cameron that he is slower than his cousin or even though some cheer for his cousin instead of him, Cameron doesn't let it effect him. He is more concerned about cheering for his cousins and "killing them with kindness" because he is genuinely happy for them not jealous. I think this shows BIG spirit and am so proud of who Cameron has become. These are all wonderful changes that have surfaced because of the passion he has found in mountain biking. We would honestly do this year all over again just for the positive outcome we have seen in Cameron's attitude, personality and countenance. He truly has learned (and continues to learn) how to incorporate NICA's 5 core principles into his life: strong body, strong mind, strong character, inclusivity and equality. He still has a lot to learn, as do we all, but he is well on his way to being a wonderful man with great qualities and we look forward to continued years of success with the Flying Monkey! If they helped do all this in the past 6 months, I can't wait to see what happens in the next three years! We can't thank his coaches enough for volunteering their time and talents for these kids' sake. Our son has changed for the better because of their vision that this sport doesn't only bring good athletes, but good human beings. They discipline, praise and love these kids as their own and these kids feel it and are appreciative. I realize that every single athlete deserves an award for each of their accomplishments, which are all very different - but truly, Cameron's life has taken a positive turn in EVERY aspect of his life and he is finding joy and passion. It is truly amazing to see the change that can take place when one feels they belong. We are so grateful to the Flying Monkeys team for helping Cameron feel like he belongs in this sport and in this world. From the bottom of our hearts, truly, THANK YOU."
Quoted from 2014 Spirit Awards submissions.