For more than gold

Northport, Ala., native Deontay Wilder may only have two years boxing experience, but it was good enough to get him a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing team.

Deontay Wilder, 22, will be competing on the United States boxing team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, this month. For the past nine months, he has been in Colorado training with the Olympic team.

“Right now I’m just antsy and ready to go fight,” Wilder says. “I just got back from Argentina, and I’m ready for it. I can’t wait.”

Prior to making the team as a heavyweight, Wilder was a truck driver for Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based Greene Beverage Company. He’s only been boxing for two years.

Jay Deas, Wilder’s trainer and owner of Sky Boxing in Northport, Ala., says he recognized Wilder’s will to win from the moment they met. “He let me know right away he wasn’t just there to work out,” Deas says. “I saw very quickly that he was serious about boxing.”

Deas calls the 6-foot-7-inch Wilder a “quick study,” picking up the jabs and uppercuts of boxing faster than anyone he’s seen. “It normally takes six months of training to get to be put in a golden glove fight,” Deas says.

But Deas had Wilder in the ring in far less time. “And he was knocking everyone out,” Deas says. “It wasn’t long before he won the state tournament.” From there, Wilder’s success has been a series of steps to secure his spot on the Olympic team.

“Most boxers have 100 fights before getting to this point, but Deontay has only had 16 or 17,” Deas said. “That’s unprecedented. No one in the history of United States boxing has made the Olympic team with less experience than him.”

Wilder’s determination stems not only from a desire to make something of his life, but to provide care for his two-year-old daughter, Naieya, who has spina bifida, a congenital condition of the spinal cord. “Her condition was detected while she was in her mother’s womb, so we knew what we were getting into,” Wilder says. “We were given a choice to terminate the pregnancy or go through with it.”

The couple chose to continue it, and in 2005, Naieya was born. Wilder gave up a promising basketball career at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, to support his daughter and pay for the overwhelming costs of surgeries and doctors’ bills. “It was a hard decision for me,” Wilder says. “But I knew school would always be there for me, and I had to support my little girl.”

Now a single parent, Wilder says Naieya is starting to live a normal childhood life, walking, running and playing on her own. When he’s away from home, Wilder makes a point to explain to Naieya that he’s only going to be gone temporarily. “I sit her down and tell her, ‘Daddy’s going to box,’ and she’ll reply, ‘Daddy box? Daddy go box,'” he says. “She may not understand the Olympics, but she knows about my job.”

Wilder is proud of Naieya and says her good-spiritedness makes it hard to tell she even has spina bifida. “She’s an amazing little girl and is my shadow every time I bring her to the gym,” Wilder says. “She’s so smart and has a determination to do anything.”

As for the upcoming games, Deas said Wilder is “looking good” and continuing to sharpen up on his strength. “Deontay is tall, and his jabs are really important – he’s realized that,” Deas says. “It’s the key part of this game.”

Working on his jab and footwork are two particular things Wilder says he’s been conscious of over the past nine months. “Perfecting my techniques – that’s what I’m doing,” Wilder says. “I can’t let anything distract me during the fight. One wrong move and I’m out.”

Deas calls Wilder the “most determined boxer” he knows. “He’s never once complained or second guessed anything we’ve had him do. He is an absolute joy to work with.”

Deas says he has no doubt Wilder will fight professionally, but Wilder isn’t thinking that far ahead.

“Yeah, I want to fight pro, but right now I’m focused on what I have to be,” he says. “I’m taking it all one fight at a time.”

Birth of Care
Twin daughters born to stranded truckers, community members give aid

When Roger Wilbur and Kari Patterson set off on a 10-day delivery route, they were certain they would be home before the birth of their twin daughters.

Three weeks later, thanks to various delays, the Oklahoma City natives were still on the road.

“There was a lot of stress on [Kari] ’cause the load she was carrying was 24 pounds,” Wilbur says. “I really thought we’d make it back before the twins were born.”

Patterson, a hauler of oversize equipment, owns her own rig and Wilbur drives a smaller escort truck that is required to accompany oversize loads. The couple was en route to Jacksonville, Fla., to deliver a mammoth industrial convection oven for shipment to Saudi Arabia.

After the delivery, Patterson and Wilbur checked into the Macclenny Travelodge in Baker County, Fla. Patterson went into labor the following Monday and delivered two fraternal twin girls, Tara and Paula, by caesarean section on Tuesday, May 13. Two days later, Patterson was released from the hospital and on her way back home with her new daughters.

Within days, however, Patterson’s health took a turn for the worse as a serious infection developed. Though treated with antibiotics, the infection grew, and gangrene developed at the caesarean incision. Wilbur began to worry about not only his wife but his new daughters and having enough money just to survive. “We were looking for a miracle,” he says. And they found one, in the form of the compassion of two members of the Macclenny Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who heard about their dilemma and offered to help.

“One of Kari’s friends from Oregon called them,” Wilbur says, “and they came to our aid.”

Others have pitched in where they could offer assistance, too. Wilbur says the outpouring of help from the Baker County community has been overwhelming. “I would recommend this place to anyone,” he says. “The people here are great.”

Resident Carol James heard about the dilemma and offered her hands to help take care of the newborns. James and her husband, Bob, and daughter, Niki, have been caring for the twins for weeks now, allowing Wilbur to spend much-needed time at the hospital with his wife. “All of the residents in Baker County will forever be our friends,” Wilbur says, “but Carol and her family will hold a special place in our hearts. Carol and her family have been really good to us. They are three of the greatest people I know.”

When James first heard of Patterson’s dilemma, she immediately went to see the twins. “They are precious,” she says. James’ first act of kindness was to get Wilbur and Patterson out of the hotel they were staying in. She found them temporary housing in an apartment. Since then, James has spent every day caring for the twins, as well as helping raise money for Patterson and Wilbur.

“We are a small town, and this is what you get with a small town,” she says.

Since her initial infection, Patterson was readmitted to the hospital with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a difficult infection to treat. After three weeks, Patterson was released from the hospital and kept on bed rest until her incision healed.
As of June, Patterson, Wilbur and the twins were living in an apartment in Baker County, and Patterson was in and out of the hospital for routine checkups.

Increased medical expenses have put Patterson and Wilbur at risk of losing their home in Oklahoma. They currently owe $1,900 in house payments, $240 in cell phone expenses and have medical bills in excess of $100,000, James says.

Donations to help with all of these expenses are being taken in the name of Patterson, Wilbur and the twins. Please contact Carol James at 904-259-6005.

Documentary Has Summer Premiere at Truckstops
Armed with a handheld high-definition video camera, director Doug Pray and producer Brad Blondheim set out to capture the stories of truckers across the United States. The result is the new documentary Big Rig, not only available on DVD but also being shown at TA and Petro truckstops nationwide this summer.

Big Rig tells of truckers such as Loretta, a mother from Ohio who hides a weapon in her cab for fear of truckstop violence; Ron, an American Indian who visits tribes around the country while delivering vinyl; and Bear, a patriotic steel driver from Idaho who thinks the government needs an overhaul.

The 95-minute movie was shot over four two-week periods, with Pray and Blondheim hitting truckstops from New York to California, randomly “casting” everyday truckers. The end result, the producers say, is a film with about a dozen key stories, stories that paint a picture of what life is like for those out on the highways.

Reviewer Drew McWeeny of Ain’t It Cool News called Big Rig a “sad, fascinating movie about one of the quiet subcultures here in America, the men and women who drive the trucks that keep almost every industry working

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