Leroy Sutton, Dartanyan Crockett and former ESPN producer Lisa Fenn (courtesy ESPN)
In 2009, ESPN's Outside the Lines aired a story on two inner-city Cleveland high school students who were steadfast friends. With Tom Rinaldi reporting and Lisa Fenn producing, we learned about them through one of the most amazing pieces of storytelling.
Leroy Sutton had lost his legs due to a freak train accident. Dartanyon Crockett had lost most of his eye sight due to a rare disease. Together, they wrestled on the same team. Crockett would carry Sutton. Crockett became Sutton's legs. Sutton became Crockett's eyes. They were always there for each other during matches, at school and at home. It was an amazing story of perseverance and friendship with an unbreakable bond. And it ended with them graduating high school, but with a future in doubt. Both could not afford college and both faced a future in a place that was riddled with poverty.
That's probably where the story for many people who viewed the story ended. The cameras went away and perhaps the story was quickly forgotten.
However, Fenn couldn't step away. She saw the response to the story from people who wanted to help the boys go to college and through a friend, a trust fund was set up in their names so they could go to college. For some, that would be enough, but not for Fenn.
This is where the story really takes off. Fenn stayed in Crockett's and Sutton's lives. She left ESPN in 2010 to raise a family, and to also help the two achieve their dreams. She arranged a trip to the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado and it gave Crockett a new purpose: to become a Paralympian in a sport he had never partaken, judo. His goal, to win a medal in the 2012 Paralympics in London
And Sutton did go to college with the dream of become a video game designer. He's on track to graduate. And he's also become a dad.
Through it all, Fenn was there to become the emotional support and the mother in their lives.
ESPN began airing the follow up to the story on Sunday with a companion piece by Fenn on ESPN.com. The story is 21 minutes of some of the best storytelling you will see this year or any other year. And here's hoping Tom and Lisa return in four years to let us know how Leroy and Dartanyon are faring as Crockett hopes to compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Truly an amazing story.
I'm in Perth Western Australia, just saw this story on the news, what a wonderful trio. What a beautiful story amongst all the bad news stories. Well done guys.
Definitely the best stories that ESPN has aired in the past five years. I was a big fan of the first one back in '09, and this was even better. Nice to see the good side of the world.