PITTSBURG, KS.--- For many people, there's always that one person they can look up to, helping them reach their goals. For the athletes of Pittsburg's New Hope Special Olympics Team, that person in John Lair. That's why he is a Red Cross Everyday Hero.
"He inspires me. He's one of the role models I look up to," said Chevi Peters, New Hope Athlete.
If you step inside Pittsburg's Legacy Fitness Center, you might see something incredible happening.
"18 different sports, we only take off two weeks out of the whole year. We try to keep busy and try to give them as many activities as possible," said John Lair, Special Olympics New Hope Coach.
Coach John Lair isn't talking about professional athletes, he's talking about the outstanding men and women that make up the Special Olympics New Hope Bulldogs.
"I think John has brought so much to the Bulldogs at New Hope. I've worked at other special olympics around Kansas, I've never seen anything like this," said Karley Bledsoe, Special Olympics Volunteer.
He dedicates every free moment he has to these athletes. Every chance that he gets to better an athlete or the facility, he does what he can to go ahead and take care of it," said Eric Martinez, Special Olympics Volunteer.
John has been a special olympics volunteer for 20 years. It was a life-changing moment that made him feel the need to bring the special olympics to Pittsburg, Kansas.
"In September of 2000, I lost my best friend. And after about 5 months of mourning, I decided I had to do something," said Lair.
Since then, he's turned one of the worst moments of his life into something remarkable, logging thousands of volunteer hours each year.
"The athletes, they love John. They treat him as if he's their father. Every one of them wants to hug him everyday they see him. They want to give him high fives," said Martinez.
"He's really sweet to me, because I always call him dad. He's a good person to me," said Ashley Spriggs, New Hope Athlete.
"John is always getting me prepared for any sports event that I go to. He's a really good coach," said Peters.
John remains humble about being considered a hero.
"These guys are the heroes. I'm just a lucky guy that gets to come in and play around and have fun with these guys. Just make everything fun for them and help them achieve their goals," said Liar.
"I never got to play sports in high school, so this is my chance to prove myself in special olympics. And every sport I do, I'm doing it for John Lair," said Peters.
The New Hope Bulldogs have four national champions and four world champions, becoming one of the best special olympic programs in the nation. John also started the program "Bike for Life" two years ago to help his athletes lose weight and be healthier. Three special olympic athletes have lost more than 100 pounds, and all of his athletes have lost nearly 3,000 pounds collectively.
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