The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is proud to announce that Red Bud High School junior student-athlete Kevin Crafton has been named the IHSA's nominee for the 2010 National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) National Spirit of Sport Award.
The NFHS Spirit of Sport Award aims to recognize individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics. Student-athletes, coaches, athletic administrators, administrators, trainers and other individuals associated with a school's athletic and activity programs are all eligible to be nominated. The NFHS will announce one national Spirit of Sport Award winner and eight Section winners in late February or early March.
Kevin is currently a standout two-sport athlete at Red Bud, playing on the Musketeer football team in the fall and the baseball team in the spring. He had been a three-sport athlete until high school and intends to rejoin the school basketball team next year as a senior after broken bones in his foot and surgery on a torn meniscus cost him his freshman and sophomore seasons on the hardwood, respectively.
Kevin lines up all over the field for the Red Bud football team, playing running back, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back. He also earned All-Cahokia Conference honors as a kicker last fall, while finishing third on the team in scoring and tackles, catching five passes for 187 yards and snagging a trio of interceptions.
On the baseball diamond, Kevin pitches, plays first base or centerfield and routinely hits in the number three or four slots in the Musketeer batting order.
Kevin has excelled at all of these endeavors despite losing his right hand in a meat grinding accident nearly seven years ago when he was nine years old. After losing his dominant hand in the accident, Kevin was forced to not only relearn how to play sports, but also the small day-to-day things that came with little thought or effort like brushing his teeth, writing his name, tying his shoes and playing video games.
"I am very honored to be nominated for this award. I have always tried to work hard in everything I do," said Kevin. "When I lost my hand, it required me to work twice as hard on a lot of things, as well as to spend a lot of time thinking through how to do things that came easily to me when I had two hands. So in that regard, it is exciting to have my hard work recognized."
Kevin's resiliency, determination and fearlessness in the face of adversity has left his teammates and coaches to use words like "inspiration" and "amazing" when they describe him. With the aid of a prosthesis, Kevin is a staple in the high school weight room and has become one of the team's strongest players. He also recently taught himself to do a standing back flip and has reached a point where he can accomplish everything he had done with two hands.
"I have a lot of positive influences in my life who have helped me overcome my accident, starting with my parents and my family," added Kevin. "All of my coaches, especially the football staff at Red Bud, have also been incredibly important as well. They always push me and don't treat me differently from any of the other kids. They didn't change or lower the expectations for me and that motivated me to set higher goals."
The IHSA was made aware of Kevin's story after reading Norm Sanders' feature article in the Belleville News Democrat in October.
"The nomination process for this prestigious award has unearthed so many exceptional stories of service and overcoming adversity within our state," said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. "Kevin Crafton is an exemplary model of that. He is a young man who suffered a debilitating injury and could have spent his life asking 'why me', but instead asked 'why not'. Why not continue to not only participate, but to strive and excel in all the things that he loves to do."
Past IHSA Spirit of Sport Award nominees include Belvidere North's Amy Brechon in 2008 and Lake Park's Tori Clark in 2009. Brechon was named the winner for the Midwest Section of the country due to her work as a breast cancer advocate after surviving the disease at age 14. Lake Park's Tori Clark was named the National Spirit of Sport Award winner last year and was honored by the NFHS at a luncheon during the NFHS Summer Meeting in San Diego, California in July. Clark won the award after arranging a fundraiser as a part of a Lake Park volleyball match for the family of a student from another school whose mother was suffering from cancer, despite having no relationship with the family.