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October 5th, 2011
Local Man Up for CNN Hero Award

The football field has forever changed Schertz, Texas native, Eddie Canales’ life. On November 2, 2001, while playing one of his last high school games, Canales’ son, Chris, suffered a spinal cord injury that left him fighting for his life. Chris survived, but he would never be able to walk again, which meant drastic changes for him and his family. There were not only physical adjustments, such as remodeling the house to accommodate a wheelchair, but Chris struggled with emotional issues like depression as well.

One year later, the Canales family witnessed this tragedy again when they saw another high school player fall victim to a spinal cord injury. That is when Eddie found his calling. He and Chris decided they needed to help others who have experienced the same physical limitations and emotional pain of spinal cord injuries. Soon after, Eddie and his son created Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps athletes who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries as a result of playing high school football.

Gridiron Heroes currently provides emotional support, like encouragement and mentorship, to 19 injured players and their families in Texas. The organization hasn’t been able to give financial assistance yet, but Eddie often helps families manage their own fundraising efforts to pay for medical bills, wheelchairs and remodeling homes to make them wheelchair accessible. Gridiron Heroes member, Devin Herbert knows first-hand how this foundation can change a life. In 2007, Devin was paralyzed while playing football and has since been restricted to riding the bus for his primary means of travel. But last year, Gridiron Heroes was able to raise enough money to buy Devin and his mother a new wheelchair-accessible van. Click here to see the emotional video and what Gridiron Heroes is all about.

Every month, the Canales men drive across the nation to speak with coaches and trainers about how they can avoid spinal cord injuries on the football field. Their mission is to raise awareness of Gridiron Heroes and persuade coaches to teach proper hitting practices that decrease the likelihood of injuries to the head and spinal cord. Eddie hopes that someday Gridiron Heroes will have branches around the country, which will help wounded players in every state.

The Canales’ strength and selflessness has recently received national attention; Eddie is currently a Top Ten finalist for the 2011 CNN’s Heroes Award. The Top Ten status earned Gridiron Heroes $50,000, but the grand prize, $250,000, will go much farther in keeping these families out of debt as they try to afford medical expenses. You can help Eddie reach his goal by clicking here and voting for him as the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year.

To get directly involved, please visit the Gridiron Heroes website at www.gridironheroes.com.