Coach jumps hurdles to ensure student's dream to play sports comes true

Photo source: WEAR-TV

Ethan Fulk, Navarre High School Freshman, "I was born with spina bifida. I always wanted to do sports but I didn't think there was a sport out there for me to do."

Then one day freshman Ethan struck up a conversation with Joe Surratt. He's a special education teacher, a football coach and the track and field coach at Navarre High School. The two immediately bonded over Florida State football. Coach could sense Ethan's love for sports and the wheels started turning.

"I threw the idea out there to him and the seed stuck. The idea grew and it's come to fruition and now he's on the team," Surratt said. The track and field team.

They started with Ethan in a modified regular wheelchair. But, Coach Surratt did his homework and reached out to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. He made another little miracle happen.

"Last week, on Monday, it was my birthday and I got a racing wheelchair from my coach for my birthday.

The adaptive wheelchair was designed and built for Ethan. The coach himself drove to Port St. Lucie to get the surprise.

"I went, 'Oh, my God', Ethan recalled.

"We're learning together at this point but he's getting it down. He's learning how to pop his wheels an pop his hip; and use the actuator to turn on the turn, go on the turns," said Coach Surratt.

Coach Surratt said Ethan will spend hours on the track; grateful, determined, and willing to work hard.

"Build up my muscles in my arms, mostly my arms, because I'm moving my arms on the wheels a lot. I have to work on my speed," said Ethan.

"He was out there doing his push ups and I said, "How many you did?" "I did 45," that day and the next day at lunch he would tell me, "I did 50" or whatever. So, he was excited about being a member of the track team," said Scott Murphy, Navarre High Athletic Director.

Ethan runs the 200-meter, the 800-meter and does shot put from an adaptive chair the coach got for him. The Florida High School Athletics Association tells the Coach there are only 16 students in the entire state participating in adaptive track and field. Coach Surratt hopes other schools will make the leap and start programs as well. He says seeing Ethan succeed is worth is all.

"It's been a pleasure for me to open that opportunity for him and it's a pleasure just to watch him grow," Coach Surratt said.

"I'm glad that he's my coach and I love what I'm doing right now," Ethan said.

"He's going to be able to have a sport now; he has a place," said Coach Surratt.

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.

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