Although the bright lights of the 2016 Rio Olympics have dimmed, the Olympic spirit lived on in Hillsboro Friday night.
Karter Brachear, a 17-year-old student at Taylorville High School, inducted Grace Herschelman into the Gold Medal Team just before the start of the Hillsboro High School football game on Sept. 2.
"I have had many opportunities over the past few years to meet incredible individuals who just by their presence make the world a better place," Brachear said. "Individuals who live their lives to help others, including people they meet, and others they never will."
Brachear is the son of Doug Brachear and companion Jamie Adams and Jon and Phyllis Rosenthal, all of Taylorville. He is an eight-time world champion, 23-time national champion and has been awarded 15 gold medals at the AAU Junior Olympics.
In his power lifting career, he has broken more than 200 Illinois state records, 56 national records and 48 world records, in addition to being named an AAU Academic All-American, for his performance in the classroom.
Four years ago, Brachear founded the Gold Medal Team, which awards medals to individuals who inspire others to be their best. The inaugural recipient was Lauren Reuther of Auburn, who has battled osteogenesis imperfecta. She and her family were on hand in Hillsboro for the gold medal ceremony in September.
"The common trait I have found in these special people is they remain positive regardless of the circumstances they face, accept what they can't change and work relentlessly to positively change what they can," Brachear said. "They share the struggles and the victories. They are unique in that they willingly and happily share their special gifts without asking for anything in return."
This year, Brachear selected Herschelman, the five-year-old daughter of Kyle and Mary Herschelman of Hillsboro, who is battling INAD (infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy), a rare genetic disorder for which there is no treatment or cure.
"My aunt Janet (Walch) told me about Grace and her amazing story," Brachear said. "I had to meet her and her parents. Grace is so properly named. She lights up a room with her smile. Her story is inspirational. Daily, she faces adversity and moves through life with grace."
In addition to the Gold Medal Team ceremony, Brachear and his family continue to help raise funding and awareness for INAD. Fundraising events at the game and an online GoFundMe website raised more than $500 for INAD research at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.
Herschelman is the youngest inductee into the Gold Medal Team, which includes three living members and one who has since passed away.
Brachear will continue to train in powerlifting, with his next competition this November in Las Vegas, NV.
And while his success in the field is impressive, it's his heart of gold that makes him a true champion.
"The people on the Gold Medal Team are the people I consider to be my role models and strive to emulate," he said. "I learn from them and am inspired by them to train, compete and win."