HOLMEN, Wis. -- By all accounts, Holmen High School senior Travis Elam could have fallen through the cracks of society. He comes from a broken home. His mother lives in Rhode Island because of her job, so he shares a very modest home - just he and his dad.
"We're two guys living together. We're father and son, but we're also friends too."
He 'could' have fallen through the cracks - but he didn't! In fact, Travis Elam is the kind of student teachers love. "In the classroom, you want to have about 1000 Travis'."
He's the kind of athlete coaches hope for. "He's very good. He's mean when he needs to be but he's a great teammate."
And he's the kind of friend fellow students admire. "Travis will stand up for the person who's being picked on or pushed around. He just believes in a certain respect."
You'd be hard pressed to find a bad word spoken about this young man. "Travis is the complete package." "He's a great kid. He's awesome."
So what makes this kid so awesome? We'll for starters, he's he's a stand out athlete. His sophomore year he was the power lifting national champion for his weight class, in football he received 2nd team all conference honors, all while maintaining a 3.6 grade point average. He was even voted this years Homecoming king! But all that combined doesn't begin scratch the surface of how truly exceptional he is. "A lot of people haven't exercised what I like to call their courage muscle. And it seems like because of life's circumstances, it seems like he's exercising his courage muscle earlier than most."
"It was June 25th, 2010."
"It was just a normal day."
"I don't remember anything except getting out of bed and falling on my face."
"I carried him to the bathroom."
"I had no movement in my arm and leg."
"Then I called 911, 'cause I was only 15 at the time and couldn't drive."
"I was getting ready for work and the phone rang and at that time in the morning, I knew there was something wrong. He says, 'Mom, Dad had a stroke and they took him to the hospital. And my heart just kind of..."
"If he hadn't been here, I'd be underground somewhere."
Alive, but permanently disabled, George was left wondering how he would manage in life. Fortunately for him, his son didn't think twice about it. "There was never a day where I was like, 'this is what I have to do. I just kind of started doing stuff."
On top of the school work and the sports practices, nursing his arm after shoulder surgery and spending time with friends, Travis now tackles the role of care taker as well. "When other kids are out partying and bonfires and what not, he's making sure that everything is all right with me. He does the grocery shopping, he cleans, washes the clothes, he runs me to therapy and doctors appointments." "From going grocery shopping to paying the bills. He's learned to budget money. Cleaning, washing the clothes. But he never complains."
"I never really thought of it as a burden. I think, you have to deal with stuff. You don't have enough time in your life to sit a dwell on things and worry about stuff. My coaches and my teachers were very understanding. I never go a free pass though. They never said, 'oh, you don't have to do the homework.' I still took care of it and found the time."
He's had to grow up fast, but Travis says, that's a good thing. "If I didn't have this happen to me, I'd probably make the same dumb mistakes every other kid is going to make. I have responsibilities and I feel like I can live my life now because I don't have to waste all that time screwing up!"
There's no doubt about it he's a special young man, wise beyond his years, and ready for whatever else life has planned. "I don't know what path he's going to, but he will be successful in whatever he chooses."
"He has this unbridled future in front of him. All he has to do is keep opening doors and he'll do wonderful things with anything that comes through them."
"He will always shoot for the stars and he will always reach them. "
"He's just an all around great kid. I'm really proud of him."