A three-time winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award and a six-time Emmy Award–winning feature producer with ESPN for thirteen years, Beverly's Lisa Fenn is the author of
the story of her adoption of two young wrestlers from Cleveland, Leroy Sutton and Dartanyon Crockett, who shared a brother-like bond that helped them to overcome hardships that included physical handicaps and childhood poverty. Fenn will talk about her book in Shore's Trustey Family Theatre on November 15 in a free event that is open to the public; she'll be joined by the two central figures in her story, Leroy and Dartanyon. The evening begins at 6:30 p.m.
Fenn's story is remarkable. A Cleveland native, she saw a newspaper image in 2009 of the two young wrestlers from one of Cleveland’s tougher public high schools, and flew there to meet the boys the same day. Leroy, who lost his legs in a childhood train accident, could often be found riding on the back of Dartanyon, who was legally blind and had no permanent place to call home. Initially drawn together by their handicaps, the boys soon developed a powerful bond. When one wrestled, the other sat on the edge of the mat, and their cheerful friendship was a source of inspiration throughout the halls of their high school.
After first meeting the two teenagers, as she filmed a feature for ESPN
about their remarkable friendship, Fenn grew to understand the suffering Leroy and Dartanyon had endured, and earned their trust and their confidence. More than that, she said, "We formed a surprising and meaningful connection—and once the television story ended, I realized she couldn’t just walk away." Fenn resolved to help the boys. She worked tirelessly to see them through school and athletic pursuits, and many more challenges of all kinds. After the ESPN feature aired nationally, she took charge of accepting donations for the boys' education, reviewed speaking invitations, deciphered financial aid forms, coordinated college visits and ensured Dartanyon and Leroy were finally fed on a daily basis.
In November 2009, thanks to the generosity of ESPN viewers, Leroy moved to Arizona to study video game design at Collins College. "I had my doubts that he could manage on his own," said Fenn, "but time and again, he disarms his skeptics." Leroy was the first in his family to graduate from high school, and he was the first to receive a college diploma.
Dartanyon got his own life-changing offer, from the United States Olympic Committee, in March 2010. Recognizing his natural athletic abilities, coaches invited him to live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to learn the Paralympic sport of judo. Some in the sport doubted he could be ready for competition by the 2016 Games, but Dartanyon surprised all observers when he qualified for a spot on the 2012 Paralympic team to London, where he eventually won a bronze medal.
"Through it all," Fenn recalled, "we grew into an eclectic family of our own. We 'carried on.'" More than a story of two underdogs overcoming innumerable hardships, Carry On is a touching tale of an unlikely family forged through barriers of race, class, and disability. It is a powerful memoir about grit, love, hope, and faith—and the courage to carry on, even in the most extraordinary circumstances.
According to Shore's Lucy Hamilton, chair of the Parents Association's Community Connections group, "Families from every background will find something inspiring in Lisa's compelling story. We invite all to join us on November 15, starting at 6:30 p.m., to share in this event."