Big Man, Bigger Heart

Edmond resident Shane Hamman is, literally, the strongest man in the world. As a power lifter he set 14 world records and won gold medals at the 1994 and 1995 Weightlifting World Championships. As a weightlifter he set 27 American records, making him the strongest weightlifter in America. He competed in the Olympics. He’s lifted a lot of weights in his time. But now he spends his time lifting spirits.

Hamman is now a full-time speaker, representing a nonprofit organization called Rachel’s Challenge. The group’s—and Hamman’s—mission is to teach kids the value of their potential to make a positive difference in the world.

The program centers on the life of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. Rachel, an ambitious student of 17 left behind a number of personal journals. In them she recorded five challenges to improve her character. Hamman travels the country sharing those five challenges with students.

Rachel’s father, Darrell Scott, inspired by what his daughter left behind, started the program in 2001. Wanting to send a powerful message to kids, he recruited strong speakers—and speakers who truly understand the importance of the message.

Says Scott, “Shane has shown that he really has a heart for young people through his tireless efforts to share the story of my daughter with hundreds of thousands of students. He is a man of great strength, both in character and physical prowess.”

There’s something to be said for a man that can hold an assembly of 1,000 high-schoolers at rapt attention with a PowerPoint, mic and five challenges. Using the programs theme, “Start a Chain Reaction,” Shawn’s hour-long presentation encourages kids to pay favors forward and build a long person-to-person chain of kind acts.

Rachel’s challenges aren’t complicated. First, she asks that students defy prejudice. Second, they must dare to dream—and put those dreams on paper. Third, kids should turn to positive influences for inspiration. Fourth, they should practice small acts of kindness with friends and family. The fifth challenge, the core of the program, is to start that chain reaction of goodwill.

Says Scott, “We receive thousands of e-mails from students each month who have been impacted by Rachel’s Challenge. The ones that stand out the most to me are those from students who tell us that the program actually caused them to change their mind about committing suicide. Although school has only been in session for one month, we have already received nine of these e-mails.”

For more information about Rachel’s Challenge, see www.rachelschallenge.com.

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