In a journalist's life, there are some interviews and stories that stick out more than others.
Over the course of careers, there are always moments and games that you say to yourself, "I'll remember this one for a long time." However, time passes by, more stories and more interviews happen, and many times those stories and games just become archived in your brain under the file, "remember when."
However, there are some instances that a story or person comes around, and you instantaneously know that you will never forget it. Personally, this has happened to me three times during my young career.
Early in my career, I interviewed Max Freer, then a senior at Champion High School. When he was younger, he was involved in as many sports as possible. However, when he was 11-years old he had to have the entire left side of his brain removed after suffering chronic seizures, which led to the diagnosis of a rare disorder of the central nervous system, Rasmussen's Encephalitis.
Freer could make the saddest person in the world smile. Still to this day, he has an infectious personality and smile that lights up a room. When interviewing teammates and friends of his for the story back in 2008, they couldn't say enough good things about the kid they loved like a brother. It was as heart-warming of a story as there was.
The second happened again in 2008, when I got to interview then-10 year old Kaylee Neumeister. It was during the PONY National Softball Tournament, played throughout Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
I saw collection jars and raffle signs all over the different sites about helping Neumeister with medical treatments, so I asked a team mom of the Valley Extreme (the team she played on) what was going on, and she then told me that Neumeister had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I then went on to find out the 10-year old already had one procedure done and was about to go through chemotherapy.
Now, many adults would be hesitant to talk to a reporter about a brain tumor and the hard times they were going through. But not Neumeister. She was bright, bubbly and very talkative. She told me about how they found out, what the course of action was going to be and how she wished she could be playing with her team, but she was glad to be there cheering them on. I knew right then this kid was special, and if anyone was going to beat the tumor, it would be her.
Fast forward to 2013, Neumeister has had to give up softball, but has picked up golf - and she's pretty good at it. The now-sophomore at Lakeview led her team to the state tournament this year and finished 11th individually in the state in Division II.
The third came this past week when I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Champion junior Natalie Morgan, a member of the Champion girls bowling team. Without giving too much away about her story (which everyone can read about in Wednesday's Christmas edition of the Tribune Chronicle), Morgan has cerebral palsy.
Conducting the interview with Morgan almost had me in tears - but not tears of sadness for a girl who has a horrible disease - but tears of happiness for a girl who is an inspiration.
She's not letting her disease get in the way of what she wants to do as a high school student. In fact, she told me that, "I like showing other people that just because I'm in a wheelchair, doesn't mean I can't do anything I put my mind to."
Stories like the ones of Max, Kaylee and Natalie are stories that I will talk about at my retirement party - unbelievable kids who have beat the odds to go on and do extraordinary things. It's kids like this who make this job great.