Burning Determination

Glenn Cunningham was born in Kansas in 1909. When he was eight years old, his older brother mistakenly created a fire which left him severely burned. He lost most of the skin on his legs, the toes on his left foot, and his transverse arch was destroyed. His older brother died in the fire.

The doctors recommended that Glenn’s legs be amputated, but his parents refused after they saw how distraught Glenn was about losing his legs. A new type of therapy was used to help him eventually stand. Through sheer determination, Glenn was able to walk two years later. Then he was able to run.

When he was just 12 years old (4 years after the fire), Glenn defeated all of the high school runners. By his senior year in high school, he set a state record for the mile.

At the University of Kansas, he won two NCAA titles and eight AAU titles in various distance races. Glenn was selected to represent the United States in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. He finished 4th and 2nd in the 1500m event. In 1936, he set the U.S. record for the 1500m run. Two weeks after the Olympics, he set the world record in the 800m event.

When Glenn’s racing career was over, he returned to college and earned masters and Ph.D. degrees. He taught at the college level for four years.

He had a desire to help others develop hope through tough times and created a youth ranch for needy and abused children. Over 10,000 children benefitted from the camp that Glenn and his wife ran.

Glenn was very religious and his faith and positive attitude sustained him through his struggles. Medical miracles can only take a person so far unless they have the determination to restore their health.

For Glenn, that determination was rooted in his faith.

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“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31 (the Bible verse that sustained Glenn)


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