Richard O. Smith III holds the plaque that goes with the Exchange Club of Albany's Accepting the Challenge of Excellence honor. Smith is an ACE, according to Mel Allen Exchangite on the left. The award recognizes students who have had to overcome great physical, emotional or social obstacles and are now ready to graduate high school.
ALBANY, Ga. -- The club calls them A.C.E. to honor them for Accepting the Challenge of Excellence. Each year the award goes to someone who, with courage, persistence and plain old-fashioned hard work, overcomes great obstacles.
During its meeting Friday, the Exchange Club of Albany honored Richard O. Smith III of Westover High School as its A.C.E.
When he was 18 months old, Smith was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. He received physical therapy and underwent several surgeries to loosen his hamstrings and hip adductors. The last operation did not go well.
"He was in the hospital for weeks trying to cope with the constant pain," said Mel Allen during the award ceremony. "He was sent home and told to deal with it as best he could. He ended up completing his sixth-grade year as a homebound student. It took about a year to recover, both physically and emotionally."
Told he would never be able to have surgery again and that he would have to use a wheelchair to move around, Smith didn't give up.
"Richard attributes his ability to overcome trauma and pain to his faithful God," Allen said. "He is quick to tell anyone who will listen about the God that never abandons him."
Smith's outlook on his future is filled with hope and optimism. He loves to read history and plans on earning a doctorate in the subject so he can become a professor or an archivist.
The award comes with a $300 check to help encourage students to overcome their hardships and recognize that hard work and perseverance pay off. Smith became eligible for the club's district award and could be recognized at the club's national meeting in Arizona.
Allen said, "Richard has a bright future in store when one considers his strong faith in God and his commitment to pursuing God's will for his life."