MOORHEAD — The drive and determination of athletes is always something we admire.
At the Special Olympics in Moorhead Wednesday, close to 300 young men and women inspired many with their performance on the track. One is a Moorhead teenager who is changing lives by combining his love of running with music.
Owen Anderson had some pre-game nerves — what athlete doesn't? His game face on, he and his paraprofessional, Abby, didn't just march with the Moorhead Special Olympics Team into the stadium. Owen was called on to once again open the games with his rendition of the National Anthem.
Owen, a 13-year-old who attends Moorhead's Horizon Middle School, had a rough start in life. He was put in a newborn intensive care unit right after birth.
"He was born really, really premature, so he spent his first six months in the hospital. He has autism, he is blind, (has) Crohn's, he goes through a lot," said his mother, Stacy Anderson.
Despite those challenges, he has pushed ahead. A music lover, he and his dad hit some of the big concerts where Owen shines and artists have been moved, bringing him on stage. It's the music that resonates with this young man.
"He has been to 50 concerts, been on stage with the Foo Fighters and played on stage with Dave Grohl," said Owen's father, Nathan Anderson.
But Wednesday, in Moorhead, Owen got ready for his race. Despite his loss of sight, he lined up and ran with the help of a cord to guide him.
Those who love and live with Owen every day cheered. Those who work alongside Owen can hardly describe the gift of knowing him.
"He just makes my heart grow . . . it just makes my heart melt. It really does," said Abby Olson, a paraprofessional who works with Owen."He walked into my life and it has been amazing ever since."
It was high fives for everyone. The heart of a champion, a soul full of grace.