Gracie Firestone '11, a former three-sport athlete, has been selected as a 2012 recipient of the “National High School Spirit of Sport Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics. Gracie, one of eight recipients from across the country, is the winner of Section 2, which includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
A presentation will made during the spring sportsmanship rally on Monday, April 2 at 5:30 p.m. in the P.S. du Pont Theater. Presenting the award will be John Gillis from the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis, IN. The entire Tower Hill community is invited to attend.
A versatile athlete who earned 15 varsity letters and garnered all-state honors in three sports, Firestone maintained a glittering 3.93 GPA. She exhibited tremendous leadership qualities and was student body president. The recipient of several awards, Firestone was a strong role model for younger kids. She also started a number of community service projects including the “Spirit Challenge” and “Let the Kids Play,” the latter of which has raised thousands of dollars for disadvantaged youth as far away as Africa. In recognition of her leadership abilities, she attended the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) Leadership Conference in 2010.
However, less than a year later, her life changed forever. On June 6, 2011, just three days after graduating from Tower Hill School, Firestone went to her mother’s room to tell her that she wasn’t feeling well. Shortly thereafter, she collapsed on her bed and her heart stopped. Her mother immediately called 911, and her brother administered CPR during the three minutes it took the EMTs to arrive. Firestone’s heart stopped three times that night and the outlook was grim. Due to the heroic efforts of the EMTs, police, and ER crew who provided unparalleled professional help and refused to give up in the face of daunting odds and physical exhaustion, Firestone was revived. At home, they drilled into her shin to gain faster access to veins that were already shutting down. In the ambulance, Firestone had to be shocked six times to prevent her from having complete heart failure. In the hospital, she was put on a ventilator, and they made every effort to minimize the swelling in her brain.
Afterward, the Wilmington community rallied together in prayer vigils in support of its young leader. The Care Pages website, which was filled with daily updates on Firestone’s condition, soon was overflowing with messages from rival athletes, coaches and parents. Her story served as an inspiration not only within the Tower Hill community and within the state of Delaware, but also to the young people in Africa whom she assisted through her fundraising efforts.
Firestone now wears a defibrillator that will shock her heart if needed, but testing has ruled out any genetic or pre-existing condition and no permanent damage was caused, so the consensus is that the electrical failure of her heart was likely due to a virus. The swelling in her brain continues to subside and her short-term memory and processing continue to improve. Throughout the entire ordeal, Firestone never felt sorry for herself and instead stayed positive and selfless and focused on her “Let the Kids Play” community service project.
And in true full-circle fashion, Firestone addressed that same DIAA Leadership Conference a year later in 2011. During her presentation, she shared her amazing story with the many enraptured attendees. As an individual who at a young age very possibly might not have been able to attend that conference, Firestone exhorted the audience members to learn from her example and to take full advantage of what they can do during the here and now.
Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members.