A different kind of athlete

   A different kind of athlete


We found out that Jenny was hearing impaired, when
she was four and a half years old. Several surgeries
and speech classes later, when she was seven, we
found out that Jenny had juvenile rheumatoid
arthritis (JRV). 
She could not put pressure on the heels of her feet,
so she walked on tiptoe, and when the pain became
unbearable, I carried her. Jenny was fortunate,
though, because she did not suffer the deformities,
often associated with JRV. 
All through grade school, and on into high school,
Jenny suffered, yet never complained. 
Jenny, a beautiful blonde, with warm brown eyes,
was never a cheerleader. She never competed in a
sport. She took the same health class four years in a
row, just so she could pass with a substitute credit
each year. No one in the Charleston, South Carolina
School System knew what to do with Jenny. The
perimeters were, simply, not in place to deal with a
student, who was both active and handicapped. 


She was totally mainstreamed, popular, and funny,
attending every football game, cheering the team on,
carrying her pillow everywhere she went, so that she
could cushion the pain, when she sat down. Then
came her senior year. She would be considered for
scholarships; however, school activities, especially
sports, could often mean the difference between
receiving an award or losing out. 
So Jenny came to a decision; and in her quirky,
unorthodox manner, she began to bombard the high
school football coach. Finally, the coach gave in, with
the admonition, “If you miss ONE game, you're out!”
So, Jenny became Manager of the Garrett High
School Football Team. 
She bandaged knees and ankles before every game.
She gave pep talks, and it turned out to be one of the
best years for Garrett High School Football Team, in
its twenty-five year history. 


When asked why he thought that the team was
winning all their games, even in the face of injury,
one linebacker explained, in his soft, Charleston
drawl, "Well, when you've been knocked down, and
you can’t seem to move, you look up and see Jenny
Lewis, limping across the field and carrying her
pillow. It makes anything the rest of us may suffer
seem pretty insignificant.” 


At the Senior Awards ceremony, Jenny received a
number of scholarships to College of Charleston. Her
favorite scholarship, however, was a small one from
the Charleston Women's Club. The President of the
Women’s Club listed Jenny’s accomplishments,
starting with her grades, and ending with an excited,
“...and the first girl to letter in football, in Garrett High
School history!!”

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