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Calumet High senior a champion in life

Calumet High School senior Robert Brown is pictured with Olympic gold-medal gymnast Gabrielle Douglas Oct. 15 2012 IndianUniversity Northwest Gary.

Calumet High School senior Robert Brown is pictured with Olympic gold-medal gymnast Gabrielle Douglas on Oct. 15, 2012, at Indiana University Northwest in Gary. | Photo provided

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Calumet New Tech High School senior Robert Brown met a fellow champion Monday at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.

The meeting occurred during a luncheon hosted by the Barden Gary Foundation, with Indiana University Northwest, the Foundation of East Chicago, Blackademically Speaking and the city of Gary. The event celebrated Gary native Natalie Hawkins and her daughter, 2012 Olympic gold-medal gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, who spent the day in Gary surrounded by family, friends and, of course, fans.

Brown, 17, was among a room full of teens who are participants in the 2012-13 Barden Gary Scholars Program, and had the honor of co-emceeing the luncheon.

We all know about Hawkins’ and Douglas’ challenges and the obstacles they overcame en route to Gabrielle winning gold. We’ve read the articles, watched the TV interviews and followed them during their time in London.

When Brown was asked to help emcee, he also was asked to share his story.

As Brown began, there was buzzing and loud conversation in the crowd — until he said he was supposed to have been aborted. When Brown told how his father was killed the day before the scheduled abortion, the crowd gasped.

Silence fell over the room as he told how his mother was a drug addict who disappeared for months at a time, leaving Brown and his three siblings alone to fend for themselves.

No one moved as Brown, who wore a bright, beautiful smile throughout his presentation, talked of stealing food from stores to feed his siblings, while he eventually resorted to eating from garbage cans.

Brown talked about losing a younger brother to malnutrition. When their mother returned home one day, she told them to wake up, and that sibling did not respond.

When their mother disappeared again, Brown had enough and sought help from neighbors. After being in foster care, adoption became a saving grace.

Brown smiled broadly as he talked about his senior year at Calumet. He’s just months away from graduation and being a Barden Scholar. Brown received a standing ovation, but something that occurred after the luncheon made me smile.

Brown’s a grin rivaled Douglas’ Olympic smile as she casually draped her right arm across his shoulders during an impromptu photo opportunity.



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