Sometimes there are situations when someone’s support is needed and someone’s strong shoulder is nearby. And very often, completely strangers who happen to be nearby come to the rescue. Young Ben Baltz knows what fear and disappointment mean. When Ben was 6 years old, he felt incredible pain in the lower part of his right leg. The boy was examined by a doctor, and then he and his family found out that he had an early stage of osteosarcoma or bone cancer. In 2008, Ben had the lower part of his right leg removed.
After that, he had to undergo chemotherapy for 8 months so that all remaining cancer cells were completely removed from his body. Considering Ben’s age and the fact that he was quite athletic, that he liked to run and play sports, the amputation of his leg was a terrible event for him. It was scary to even think that losing his leg would change his whole future life and deprive him of his usual mobility.
But Ben himself and his whole family understood that amputation of the leg was the only way to get rid of cancer and move on. 5 months after Ben’s leg was removed, he was fitted with a prosthesis. Fortunately, the boy quickly got used to it and learned to use it skillfully. His memories of that time were like this: “I thought it would be difficult for me to walk with this thing, but eventually I even ran. It was amazing to realize that I could run without a leg.”
When Ben realized that the prosthesis was not a deterrent, he started running more and more, and trained a lot to become a really good runner. As a result, a year after the amputation of his leg, the boy ran one and a half kilometers in just 8 minutes and 15 seconds – this was a good proof for himself that he could do whatever he wanted. Over time, Ben’s father, J.C., began signing him up for local races and triathlons.
The boy took part in more and more races. Ben had two types of prosthetics, and depending on what he was going to do, he could change them. One mechanical prosthesis was adapted for everyday movements, and the other was used for various sports, including running. Ben’s father, mother and sister – they all also ran and always supported the boy. When he was racing, they were always there to cheer him up.
The Sea Turtles Children’s triathlon at Pensacola Beach in Florida for children aged 7 to 15 was supposed to take place in October, and 11-year-old Ben was going to take part in it. Considering that registration for this competition is held long before it starts, it was really lucky for Ben that he was able to get a place. The boy was going to compete in a 150-meter swim, a 6.5-kilometer bike ride and a 1.5-kilometer run.
Ben has always been striving for new achievements, and now he has set a goal to run a kilometer in 7 minutes and 30 seconds. He did not even allow such a thought that a prosthetic leg instead of a leg is some kind of hindrance. His whole family supported him in every possible way and encouraged him to participate in competitions. When the Sea Turtles triathlon started, Ben wasn’t worried at all about the swim and bike ride – he would have coped with this without any problems. Then there were runs, but considering that it was only 1.5 kilometers, the boy was not too worried.
But the unexpected happened: halfway along the route of the run, his prosthesis loosened. And all because the screw that attached his prosthesis to the mechanical knee was loosened. Fortunately, there were Marines nearby who monitored the safety of the children. And one of Corrie’s soldiers, Matthew Morgan, was just watching Ben walking along the highway and admired his courage and determination. Suddenly, Private Morgan saw the boy begin to stumble on the run, and then fell.
The soldier immediately ran up to the boy lying on the ground to see what had happened and, if necessary, to help. When the Marine got to Ben, he saw that his prosthesis had come off. The soldier tried to collect it, but could not do it. Later , Private Morgan recalled: “When I got to the boy, he had already calmed down and was trying to fix the prosthesis. I asked if he needed help. And Ben said in response that he just wants to get to the finish line.”
Realizing that Ben would not be able to reach the end of the road alone, and seeing his great desire to do so, Private Morgan lifted the boy on his back and carried him to the finish line. Seeing this unusual duo, other Marines surrounded them in solidarity and ran the rest of the way side by side. Meanwhile, Ben’s parents, knowing that he should already appear at the finish line, but not seeing him, began to worry. Kim remembers: “I understood that he was tired, but it wasn’t too much distance. And I couldn’t wait for him to show up.”
But the parents did not expect to see exactly how Ben would appear! Surprisingly, when Morgan and Ben, accompanied by a group of infantrymen, were approaching the finish line, everyone started rooting for them. People were extremely touched by what the soldiers were doing for the boy. One of the spectators told: “When this amazing group came into view, everyone started applauding very loudly. And when they crossed the finish line, several people even cried.”
Some people at the same time said: “Although this soldier is not a very big guy, he was able to lift the boy and put him on his back, and then quickly run the rest of the way. It’s unbelievable!”. And one of the organizers of the race, John Murray, added: “I, like other people watching this, was just overwhelmed with emotions. A lot of people were crying.” The commander of the Marine detachment, Captain Frank Anderson, commented on the incident: “It’s nice to see what the Marines are doing!
They act in accordance with the motto of the Marine Corps: “Don’t leave anyone behind!”. Despite all the impressive moments of this run, when Ben crossed the finish line with the Marines, he was a little disappointed that he could not complete the triathlon on his own. But his mother convinced him that what happened was in no way a defeat. She even claimed that “he has become a source of inspiration for those people who are fighting a battle that he has already won.”
Kim really believes that her son is an extraordinary inspiration for many people. She explains, “We just want Ben to be involved in life. We want to let him know that he can do anything. And that he just needs to be grateful that he can do everything he wants, because there are many children who are still fighting cancer. All that long time when Ben was on chemotherapy, he walked down the corridor on crutches. Now he’s running because he can do it, and he doesn’t need to take his health for granted.
We – our whole family – do not forget that a lot of children cannot run because they are stuck in the hospital.” After this event, Ben continued to run and surf, he also participated in various other competitions. One of the photos in which Ben is depicted running with his father in the rain, his sister Rachel sent to the Runner’s World contest. This picture has become very popular on the Web. Most of all in this young man, people are struck not even by his perseverance, but by his views on life.
It amazes and inspires! Ben shared his thoughts: “The amputation of my leg did not stop or even slow down the course of my life. She brought me only the obstacles that I overcame.” This boy really has a lot to learn! After all, all that is needed to overcome any obstacles that life puts in our way is our positive way of thinking.