Rick Karle: ‘Walt Gary was a hero’ — Why can’t we all #BeLikeWalt?
As I drifted off to sleep on Sunday night, I was suddenly filled with thoughts of a hero.
He wasn’t a strapping football player, nor was he a winner of a Super Bowl, a World Series or an Olympic medal.
Instead, Walt Gary enriched the lives of Alabama football players, family and friends; and he enriched those lives with a daily smile and an attitude that we can all envy.
As I thought of the late Crimson Tide super fan, I realized that it was four months to the day that Walt had passed. He fought the fight at UAB Hospital but went to heaven on June 6 at the age of 36.
How could it be that a young man with Down syndrome was a hero?
If heroes change our lives for the better, Walt was the poster boy for the true meaning of the word — each day helping us laugh, cry and love.
It was back in the mid-1990s when Walt befriended former Bama coach Gene Stallings and become great friends with John Mark Stallings, the coach’s son.
Walt suddenly found himself being a fixture at football practice and some time ago started a routine that would make even Nick Saban smile: Each Thursday night, Walt would write down his game prediction for the upcoming game, proudly show that prediction to the players and then hand the piece of paper to Coach Saban.
Smiling coaches and players, hugs and a brief respite from a grueling week of practice.
Shortly after Walt passed, I got to thinking: Why can’t we honor Walt by being more like him?
Why can’t we love like Walt or be like Walt? For decades he brought joy to others. Why can’t we do the same?
Walt did not judge, Walt did not gossip and Walt never talked ill of anyone.
Walt loved and respected everyone he met. Walt was never without a smile and never without a hug.
Maybe Walt really was an angel. Why can’t we all be like Walt?
Social media can actually be a wonderful thing, I thought as I took to Facebook and Twitter sharing my thoughts, including the hashtag #BeLikeWalt.
A movement was born — and while Walt is no longer with us, his memory is helping a young student find success. As the #BeLikeWalt hashtag caught fire, so too did sales of Alabama t-shirts, hats and other merchandise featuring the hashtag #BeLikeWalt. All proceeds from merchandise sales go to the Walt Gary Scholarship In Special Education. The money will be used to provide a scholarship to a UA student majoring in special ed. The university impressively jumped on board by featuring the merchandise on their social media and digital platforms, and the Supe Store even constructed a beautiful display just inside the store’s doors.
The moral of this story? Walt Gary changed lives, and now it’s our turn to #BeLikeWalt.
Walt Gary’s relationship with the Bama players and coaches was one to behold, and Walt’s mom Betsy shared Walt’s life story on our Huts and Nuts podcast.
From Walt’s special relationship with Jalen Hurts, to the surprising and funny things Walt would say, Betsy was gracious in talking about the wonderful life of her special son.
You can listen to the full interview below:
Walt Gary does not own an NBA championship ring. He’s never won The Masters, and he never ran in or won the Boston Marathon.
Yet, Walt Gary was a hero — a person who changed lives for the better.
Let’s never forget Walt’s contributions and his positive impact on others. And while we’re at it, let’s go about our day trying our very best to #BeLikeWalt.