By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
When it was time to nominate someone for the inaugural Bob Miller Courage Award, the decision was an easy one.
And a unanimous one.
The Southeast Middle School sixth-grader, and member of the Pirates’ youth varsity football team, who has cerebral palsy, received his award on Tuesday night at the team’s end-of-season banquet.
In front of a group of close to 200, which also included Cleveland Browns legend Bernie Kosar, Hemberger accepted his award with is family by his side, including his father Todd, mother Christina and his sister.
“Where do I start?” Christina Hemberger asked rhetorically. “Everything was just amazing. It was a total surprise to Paxton and our family and the huge smile on his face said everything. Our community has been so very supportive and it is an honor to be part of this amazing community that never ceases to amaze me. They keep surprising me. We definitely can feel the love and support with everything that Paxton and our daughter wants to do. They are supportive of our entire family, but they certainly make sure Paxton’s dreams come true.”
Hemberger’s courage award comes just weeks after the Southeast and Field youth football programs arranged for a special moment Aug. 20 to allow him to score a touchdown.
The courage award is named after Bob Miller, who was a passionate volunteer to the entire Southeast community.
“Bob Miller was just an amazing person and to know that Paxton is recognized for an award named after him is a huge honor,” Christina Hemberger said.
Having Kosar in attendance was an opportunity created by Chris Miller, Bob’s son, who is a military veteran who is now a motivational speaker. During Miller’s series of speeches, he met and became friends with Kosar.
It was fitting for the night, since Paxton Hemberger and his father Todd are big fans of the Browns.
“Paxton and his dad watch the Browns together all the time,” Christina Hemberger said. “The games are an awesome bonding experience for them and it brings me joy to see them watch the games together.”
That joy carried into Tuesday for Paxton to meet Kosar.
Meanwhile, Paxton’s teammates were just as excited and spent the entire night collecting Kosar’s autograph.
“Some kids were taking off their shoes to have something for him to sign,” said Christina Hemberger, who also celebrated her third wedding anniversary with her husband Todd on Tuesday.
Todd also played football for Southeast, as did his grandmother on the varsity team, so Christina said that it is special to her family that Paxton has continued the gridiron tradition.