By Pete Banda
When Tristan Shafer was born, doctors told his parents that he would most likely never be able to run or play any kind of sport. In fact, doctors informed the parents to prepare for the possibility that Shafer would never be able to walk due to his cerebral palsy. So you can only imagine the amount of joy and intrigue they felt when their son came to them with the revelation that he wanted to join the track team at Riverside Middle school. It would be Tristan’s first time trying out for mainstream sports team.
“Tristan has been taking part in the Special Olympics since last year and he really enjoys it,” said Tristan’s mom, Lauren Shafer, who is a teacher at Riverside. “He heard on the intercom at school that they were going to be holding tryouts for the track team and he came to my class to tell me that he wanted to join the team… It was a little shocking because he had never gone out for any mainstream sports, but I talked to his Dad and we agreed to let him go ahead and do it.”
Tristan would go on to join the team and trained for two weeks before taking part in the first team track meet on the weekend of March 25. Before the race began, Tristan’s parents sat him down and had a talk with him about the possibility that he wouldn’t be winning. That didn’t deter the young athlete one bit.
“I talked to him and he still wanted to do it… he understood that he most likely would not win,” said Tristan’s father, Jason. “He stated to me that he may not be fast enough to win, but he’s definitely fast enough to have fun.”
On the day of Tristan’s first track meet of the year at Bobby Morrow Stadium, his family didn’t know what to expect. What the coaching staff had planned was one of the most sincere and eye-watering gestures possible.
“At the start of the race my son took a short lead and that continued to grow over the span of the race. My son was running well but not that well… I soon realized that the coaches, along with the students, planned it out to have my son win the race,” recalled Jason Shafer. “I could not hold back my tears nor could anyone in my family. What I witnessed was more than my son winning, but a true showing of good people in our community. Not enough is said about great educators like this. It was truly a heartwarming experience.”
The good deed was followed up by an email from one of Tristan’s coaches ensuring that Tristan was a true inspiration who gave back to the coaches much more than the price of a race.