“I’ve been doing these emotional human interest features for seven or eight years. After they air there are a handful of viewers who will reach out and say that really touched me. I was just praying that one person would see it (Carry On 2009 version) and want to help them. I had a thousand emails in my inbox three days after it airing. I didn’t know what to do.”
In 2013, ESPN’s Outside the Lines programme “Carry On” follow-up episode caught the attention of millions, and social media was alit with people wanting to share the personal story of London 2012 Paralympic bronze medallist judoka Dartanyon Crockett.
Former ESPN producer Lisa Fenn never expected her behind-the-scenes story of Crockett’s journey to becoming a Paralympian to explode the way it did.
“I’ve been doing these emotional human interest features for seven or eight years,” she said.
“After they air there are a handful of viewers who will reach out and say that really touched me. I was just praying that one person would see it (Carry On 2009 version) and want to help them.
“I had a thousand emails in my inbox three days after it airing. I didn’t know what to do.”
Fenn decided to help set up a trust and step in as a role model to help Crockett and his friend Leroy Sutton as a role model, but more importantly as a friend.
Twitter, relatively small in 2009, helped to spread the updated message in 2013.
The follow-up story was posted on Twitter by ESPN, receiving 678 retweets and 314 favourites.
London 2012 Paralympic champion swimmer Bradley Snyder tweeted “Incredibly #inspirational @sportscenter feature today! The #tearjerker on Dartanyon Crockett, Leroy Sutton &Lisa Fenn.”
Lex Gillette, three-time Paralympic silver medallist in the long jump, tweeted “drop everything RIGHT NOW & click here! @USParalympics athlete Dartanyon Crockett & Leroy Sutton #AnAmazingBond.”
Facebook had a surge in posts as well. Crockett’s fan page was named by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as one of the top 10 athlete fan pages to follow.
“When the social media buzz was happening and their Facebooks were blowing up, one of them said to me, all this love has created an imbalance in the universe,” said Fenn.
“It sums it up so beautifully, how loved and supported they were feeling. It meant the world to him. Especially from other Paralympians.”
“It felt great,” Crockett said. “They’re not sharing that story just to get my name out, but the story itself which impacts so many people.
“It’s good to know that it impacted them as well.”
Supported by the International Judo Federation, the story also helped bring personal change to those who saw it.
One viewer reached out to say, “Today’s the day I’m going to rehab. If they can get over their circumstances so can I. Today’s the day. No more excuses.”
“It went on and on,” Fenn said. “Those are what meant most to us. People implementing changes in their own lives to live better and love harder as a result of their (Crockett and Sutton) friendship.”
To extend it further Crockett, is in the process of having his story turned into a movie and is currently writing a book.
This has changed Crockett’s life and has him extending a helping hand to those in need, like the people who helped him.
“He’s getting a degree in social work because he wants to help kids like himself,” Fenn said.
“I wanted to contribute more, because I thought I’d gain more by putting myself in that environment,” Crockett said. “I can point people in the right direction and give them help because I’ve been there.”
In addition to his degree, Crockett is currently working on a clothing drive to help the homeless in Colorado Springs.
“It’s cold in Colorado, people don’t have the right clothes,” Crockett said.
“Food and money doesn’t last. This will last and give them more for winter.”
Not wanting to waste additional opportunities, Crockett is also going on a good will mission to Europe next year.
“The state department is using (London 2012 silver medallist Myles Porter London) and Dartanyon in a tour of the European bases,” said USA Judo CEO Jose Rodriguez.
Crockett, however, remains focused on returning to the Paralympics and taking his career one step further.
“I plan on staying in for 2016 and 2020 as well,” Crockett said.
“Judo and the Paralympic Games are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“Being part of a Movement like the Paralympics has given him new life,” Fenn said.
“The quality of people he’s surrounded by and the support he gets. It’s given him new life and he couldn’t be in a better place.
You can hear that message straight from Crockettt himself.
“I’m no longer the poor kid from Cleveland that was struggling just to survive every day and wondering where my next meal is going to come from,” said Crockett.
“I’m living the dream right now.”