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A special young man impacted many lives

Greensburg Daily News - 9/6/2018

Sept. 06--GREENSBURG -- The inaugural Caleb Brown 5K run for Special Olympics is scheduled for Sept. 22 and coincides with this year's Fall Festival. Registration for the event begins at 7 a.m. near the Fall Festival stage on the Greensburg Square.

The entry fee is $25 before race day and a commemorative Caleb Brown memorial 5K T-shirt is only guaranteed to participants registered before the day of the race. Registration the day of the race is $30, and T-shirts may or may not still be available. Checks for registration payable to "Caleb Brown Memorial 5K" may be mailed to P.O. Box 641, Greensburg.

All proceeds benefit Special Olympics of Decatur County, and all questions concerning the event can be emailed to

But this is not a story about a charitable event; it is about the young man who inspired it.

Caleb Brown, son of Jamie and Melissa (Wells) Brown, was born in 1995. Caleb was adored by his family, doted on by his father, and cherished by his mother and older sister, Courtney. The Browns had everything they'd envisioned in a family: a healthy daughter and now, a son, members of a great church, good jobs and good lives.

Their lives seemed perfect until, in the fall of 1997, Caleb fell ill and was diagnosed as having meningitis, a disease apparently contracted from a mosquito bite. Meningitis often causes a dangerous swelling of the brain and spinal cord. After a week of treatment and only one seizure it was decided the danger had passed and he was sent home.

He appeared to be fine until he had another seizure. More followed, and he was eventually diagnosed with brain damage and permanent seizure disorder.

Parenting is a decision not to be taken lightly. The act of creating another human life and helping that life adapt to a difficult world involves more responsibility than most even consider. Too often, a new life is more the result of unbridled passion than actual planned thought.

But when it is planned, it becomes the basic foundation and tenet of the society in which we live.

It is the beginning of family, and when a family grows the various duties assigned to rearing a child are a given. Shared parenting involves a tag team effort by mom and dad, with both sharing the load.

And so it was for the Browns.

"I didn't know what all was entailed when we got a diagnosis, but by that time it was just a natural thing. We just considered the special care Caleb needed as a normal part of our lives. You just adapt, and I had to just adapt every day," Melissa Brown said. "When you have a disabled child, you have to do special things for them. You have to be their wings. I took care of Caleb during the evenings, baths and such, and Jamie worked during the day with him. I filled out the Special Olympics enrollment forms for Caleb, and then held on to them for a year and a half."

She went on to say she wasn't sure if participating in Special Olympics was the right move for her sometimes fragile child, but he loved sports and he loved being with his father, so Jamie started a company specifically so that he could spend time with his son.

His parents noticed that Caleb got grumpy because he wanted to play sports, so they finally turned in the forms and he started participating in Special Olympics.

"He loved it! That was something he could do that was his thing," Melissa said.

Caleb only participated in Special Olympics for the most of the last year of his short life, but, according to Jenny Maddux, Coordinator of Decatur County Special Olympics and L.E.L. Services Manager, "He just blossomed."

Caleb's first sport in Special Olympics was bowling, and he proved to be very capable of handling the excitement of being on a team.

Then, his Special Olympics basketball team advanced to state level competition.

"He was really a part of the 'Dream Team' that year. Things just clicked and they won the state competition," Maddux said.

Caleb was so popular his teammates chose him as Athlete of the Year.

"He never said much, he was not a man of many words, but he could express so much without words anyway. And the other athletes just gravitated to him," Maddux said.

Then, the day of an important basketball game in Seymour came.

"It was a very good day, so after the game we celebrated by going out to eat. We stayed a little long, and Caleb got a little grumpy. He wanted to be home with his television and his video games. So we went home, and he went up to his room. He got his bath, and just like any other night, he went to bed," his mother said.

The next morning his mother awoke and noticed Caleb hadn't shown up yet.

"He usually didn't sleep very long, about 8 or 8:30 was when he woke up," she said. "I noticed that he hadn't come down yet, so I went up [to his room] and that's when I found him. He was gone," she said.

Maddux said she hopes people understand the upcoming 5K isn't just another fundraiser to the people who knew Caleb.

"What they need to understand is how this young man was an important part of a 'Dream Team' that won the state finals, and he had only played with them for less than a year. What people need to understand is that after that short time in Special Olympics, all of his athlete peers voted him as Athlete of the Year."

According to Maddux, organizers have been trying to create a 5K event to help Special Olympics for several years.

"We knew we wanted to do one, but we didn't know what to call it," she said. "We had ... just decided that when we found a name for it, we'll have a 5K, and the next day Caleb passed. What people need to know is not that this is another 5K. Yes, they can come and run, or walk, or push strollers, or whatever. And the money we make is always good, too. But what's really important is that people get to know how much of an impact this amazing young man made and how many lives he changed."

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111, ext. 7011 or email


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