We hope every one of our Olympians puts on a superstar performance in Beijing. Without the ability to foresee the outcome of the races at the Games, my early vote for our 2008 MVP is one of our key players who will not even be in China.
Many of you have had the opportunity to work with Gerald Babao. His title is Director of Operations, Membership and Development, but that doesn’t come close to describing the breadth of what he does for USACK. His versatility is exceeded only by his infectious enthusiasm and genuine friendliness.
This year Gerald has experienced some of life’s great highs and lows. Surely one of his highlights was representing USACK at the first ever ICF-sponsored conference on making our paddling sports accessible to athletes with physical disabilities. This was surpassed when Gerald nearly singlehandedly organized a two-athlete team to represent the US at the first ICF-sanctioned competition for athletes with disabilities at the European Sprint Championships in Milan in May. Gerald joined Jan Whitaker to accompany our team to Italy and perform his first ever coaching duties.
Unfortunately, this spring, Gerald was also diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, a rare cancer of the head and neck. Gerald has undergone surgery and is spending most of his summer at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC undergoing radiation therapy. Gerald has a wonderful wife, Christy, and a beautiful two and a half-year old daughter, Isabella. This is not how they planned to spend their summer vacation.
Throughout this ordeal, Gerald has remained amazingly upbeat and confident. He has also remained committed to serving the athlete members, clubs and event organizers who have come to rely on him. He is maintaining a blog in which he shares his daily experiences with those of us who are keenly following his progress. You can check it out at http://web.me.com/glbabao.
While I’m in Beijing watching our great athletes perform and achieve, my thoughts will be with Gerald, our own Team MVP, who’s competing in a different battle back in North Carolina. Go for the Gold, Gerald!