Courage is hard. It takes courage to have courage.
That’s what Lucas Snyder told 52 kids, one from each Horry County school, while speaking to them during a ceremony recognizing them for proving themselves through scholastic, athletic and community achievements in the face of obstacles or extenuating circumstances.
Horry Telephone Cooperative (HTC) has held the Recognizing Extraordinary Examples of Leadership (REEL) awards ceremony for 17 years.
In 2007, Snyder was the HTC REEL Kid from St. James High School, nominated by Jennifer Debock, a teacher. In nominating him, she wrote about his numerous accomplishments and said he was an excellent student, athlete and leader who had reached out to teachers, friends and coaches in his effort to overcome a tragedy he had endured in 2005.
Standing before another group of REEL kids, Snyder, a husband and father of one who now teaches at Columbia High School and has continued to accomplish many things, spoke of the tragedy that made him a REEL Kid.
He said his coach came to him in October 2005 at school and told him that he needed to go home, and the coach was going to take him. When he got home, the house was empty, so he and his coach sat down to wait for his parents.
He said he had a “gut feeling” that his older brother, Cory, 19, was gone, so he asked and was told that Cory had taken his own life.
About two days before, Cory had bought a plastic bracelet that had the word “courage” on it. Snyder went to his room and got that bracelet. “I wore that bracelet until it broke, and I still carry it everywhere I go,” he said.
He had also brought one for each kid at the ceremony. “It’s not really giving you courage, it’s highlighting the courage that is already there,” he said. “This is my way of reminding you, if you ever feel like you need that extra little bit of courage.”
Snyder, who asked that the theme of the event be “Only you can prevent forest fires,” said that phrase had a different meaning to him. He reminded the kids that they were the only ones who could choose whether or not to let a fire spark inside them, as he had sometimes wanted to let Cory’s death spark a fire inside him.
He said he couldn’t figure out in 2007 what he had done to be among the REEL Kids who were enduring so much. But then guest speaker Kyle Maynard told them, “No excuses.”
“In 2007, (the event) changed my life,” he said.
Due to a rare congenital birth defect, Maynard was born with almost no arms or legs. Treated normally by his parents, he has astounded everyone around him with his can-do attitude and belief that anything in life is possible. When he spoke at the HTC event, he distributed his best-selling autobiography titled “No Excuses.” As a mixed martial arts athlete, he had already received an ESPN Award for Best Athlete With a Disability.
Since that year when Snyder was so inspired by him, Maynard, a graduate of the University of Georgia, has gone on to accomplish many more things, including being the first quadruple amputee to ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro without prosthetics.
Snyder, too, continues to inspire – at his school, at home, in his community and beyond.