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Produced by Almaden Valley Rotary Club

* THE CHARLIE WEDEMEYER STORY *

Charlie Charlie

Born in Hawaii, Charlie grew up youngest of nine children in a very athletic family. His talents on the football field awarded him scholarships to prestigious Punahou Academy and Michigan State University. Named "Prep Player of the Decade" in Hawaii and chosen to two college all star games, East-West Shrine Classic and the Hula Bowl, Charlie was content with his life. He was an outstanding athlete, had a wonderful family with his wife Lucy, daughter Carri, son Kale, and was a successful coach and teacher in Los Gatos. However, in 1977 his life was forever turned around. He was diagnosed with a terminal illness, ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, and was given one or, at most, three years to live. The nerve cells that control the muscles were dying. The finely tuned athletic body was wasting away. There is no known cause or cure.

"The scoreboard says Charlie Wedemeyer won't win this game. There's no chance for a comeback now, time is running out. There'll be no 'Hail Mary', no immaculate reception. The gun is ready, and when it goes off, death will remain undefeated," wrote one newswriter.

Typical of Charlie's indomitable spirit, despite the impossible odds, he simply refused to give up and accept defeat. As the illness progressed, he could no longer walk, talk or breathe on his own, and he became totally dependent on a respirator. At one point, Charlie's physical body was ready to give up despite his determination. He realized he could no longer struggle and fight this alone without supernatural strength and support. He found this in a new personal relationship with God. Incredibly, by human standards, he was able to continue coaching; and in 1985, his Los Gatos Football Team won the Central Coast Section Championship with Lucy reading his lips and relaying instructions and plays to the assistant coaches and players.

Charlie believes that God has a great sense of humor for sending him on a speaking tour when he cannot speak! Charlie has recently returned from a multitude of speaking engagements in Europe, including talking to the Geneva Sea Hawks Football Team. He even enjoyed tea and crumpets with world renowned Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who also has ALS. His story was featured on a PBS Documentary "One More Season" in 1987 and a CBS movie, "Quiet Victory - The Charlie Wedemeyer Story" in 1988. He has written a book, "Charlie's Victory" and he's currently working on a new documentary. Charlie continues to beat the odds and continues to coach on the Frosh-Soph level at Los Gatos High School. He was asked to coach in the Hula Bowl this year, which was a special honor since his son Kale played in the game. He has great fun coaching the San Francisco 49'er wives every year in a charity flag football game.

Charlie speaks at college and pro-team chapels, conferences, schools, churches, banquets, colleges, service groups, prisons, and hospitals, to name a few. He even had an opportunity to be on "Oprah."

In 1992 he was named "Disabled American of the Year." Just knowing that God has a plan for his life gives him the strength and the courage to share his message of hope and encouragement - to let people know that life is precious! We need to appreciate what we have because we never know when we might lose it.