Results for National Guard Most Inspirational Athlete 2014

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Daniel Shannon

Tunkhannock Area High School (Tunkhannock,, PA)

Daniel Shannon, a freshman at Tunkhannock Area High School, in Pennsylvania is determined to qualify for an event at the district swim meet next year in spite of being born with Asperger's Syndrome, a genetic neurological disorder on the Autism spectrum. In spite of the challenges he faces on a daily basis, he is able to adapt and in addition to his swimming he maintains an A average in school and plans to swim in college some day. This year, Daniel's first year on the varsity swim team, marked Daniel's fourth year of swimming and although he didn't reach his goal of swimming the 50 freestyle in under 40 seconds, he came close, and he and his coach will continue to work on that next year.

He has faced the noise of the horns by learning when to cover his ears and though he jumps off the block feet first is working hard to learn to dive. As quoted in the local paper feature story on Daniel, seniors on the team say they are inspired by him because he works so hard. He always faces whatever coach tells him to do and he just keeps on trying no matter how difficult it is for him to do. The coach and the other boys on his team are the most fantastic group and they all treat each other like family. This team really epitomizes the definition of what it means to be a team. I would be proud to the mother of any one of them. After finishing last in every race, Daniel finally finished ahead of someone this season. He participates in therapeutic horseback riding and plays piano in his spare time. He always had a smile for everyone but his smile was never bigger this year when his team won the district championship meet.

Daniel seems to touch everyone he meets in a positive way. When he started at the high school this year, I was afraid he'd be bullied by the older kids and worried when he joined the varsity team, that he would not be accepted. But the older swimmers accepted him and the entire team cheers him on every time he gets in the pool. The loud screaming and cheering from the other kids and parents is often deafening as he finishes each event and often brings tears to my eyes. Daniel, however, never had any fears about joining the team.

Whether he needs to pace, rock, have alone-time with his books and action figures or covering his ears at a swim meet because the horn that signals the last lap of the 500 free hurts his ears, or asking for help when he can't figure something out, he is not embarrassed or ashamed. Because he is comfortable being himself it makes everyone around him feel good too and his smile lights up rooms and hearts everywhere.

He is positive, happy and consistent, and he practices what he preaches at all times. “Be yourself” is a motto he truly believes in for himself and others as shown in January 2012 when he organized and hosted a bowl-a-thon which he called the “Be Yourself Bowl-a-Thon”. He raised over $3,000 for Autism Speaks and from concessions more than $5,000 for his church. This young man is extremely special and inspires everyone he meets to work harder, to be nicer, to be happy with who they are, to be positive and most of all to just smile more (it is contagious), and to be the best version of themselves they can be. 

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