When he was just a year old, Tyson Williams' parents had a difficult decision to make.
Tyson was in an accident that severely injured his leg, and he was too small for doctors to repair his arteries. Rather than risk his leg dying later in life, his parents decided to have their son's leg amputated, based on the recommendations of the surgeon and others in the medical field.
Today, Tyson is a fourth-grader at Prairie Rose Elementary. His family sat in the school auditorium as Tyson's peers learned about giving and adversity. Tyson was being recognized by the Little Buddy Foundation for a new prosthetic.
The Little Buddy Foundation was founded by Greg Pruitt, a coach and history teacher in Wahpeton, N.D. who donates his coaching salary to the foundation that he created in memory of his mentor and friend, Coach Don Meyer, who had lost a leg to an amputation following a car crash.
The sports prosthetic will allow Tyson to do activities he hasn't been able to do with his standard prosthetic.
"The prosthetic that he has now is just a standard prosthetic that helps him with balance and walking," said Greg Pruitt, founder of the Little Buddy Foundation. "The prosthetic that we’re getting him is an advanced prosthetic that’s going to allow him to be able to run, jump and do things like extracurricular activities that he can’t use the standard prosthetic for."
Tyson's mother, Misti Williams, said it will give him increased mobility to help him in physical activities.
"He wants to be able to run. He wants to be able to play football. He wants to be able to play basketball. He was in Special Olympics, but he did find that he got really frustrated not being able to keep up even in there. When he was on one side of the gym, they were already on the other," Misti Williams said. "We’re obviously very, very appreciative of this. This is something he wouldn’t have otherwise."
Pruitt considers Tyson part of the foundation's family now.
"They keep in contact with us all the time. He will know them for the rest of his life, which is something that is very, very cool and very special," Misti said.
The foundation will try to help fit Tyson with new prosthesis as he grows.
"Because he’s growing, he’s limited to what he can use," Pruitt said. "Hopefully one day we can get him into the adult-sized Cheetah Foot, which will allow him to do whatever he wants."
During the assembly, Pruitt talked to the students about overcoming adversity.
"We’re trying to help send a message to overcome adversity in any child that faces adversity, try to teach them that adversity can’t beat you. That’s a message that we try to send through our assemblies. Hopefully it reaches out to more than those that just need the prosthetic," he said.
Pruitt also focuses on giving, something that his mentor Meyer always stressed.
"(Meyer) taught me about giving … and the more you give, the better you’re going to feel. ... He thought about others," Pruitt said. "In a message that he told me one time, he said, “Greg, each day that you think about yourself rather than serving others is a miserable, wasted day," Pruitt said.
Pruitt said that even as Meyer received the news that his leg would need to be amputated, his first thought was of others.
“(Meyer) said, ‘When do I get to coach? When do I get to be with my team? You can take my leg; you can take my heart, but you can’t take my heart. I want to be with my team.’ ”
Principal Nicole Weiler said Tyson is also a giving person.
"He’s a very helpful student, so if he does see other kids that are in need … even though he’s pretty shy himself, … he’s always willing to help somebody else. He’s just one of those all-around good kids who does the right thing all the time," she said.
During the assembly, Pruitt had Tyson gift each of his classmates with a Little Buddy Foundation bracelet. Pruitt gave him a tie for him to give to someone else one day. Tyson also received a jersey with his name on his for his favorite team, the Seahawks.
Tyson is the second person the foundation has helped. The first was Jacob Petermann of Wahpeton, who was gifted with his prosthetic last year. Although both prosthesis were sports-related, Meyer said he intends for the foundation to help whomever needs a prosthesis, and not just those in North Dakota. He said the foundation is currently looking for recipients across the nation.