It was glimpsing a newspaper photo of two high school wrestlers from her home town of Cleveland that led ESPN producer Lisa Fenn to get on a plane. She followed a hunch and flew back to meet the boys: Leroy Sutton and Dartanyon Crockett.
Leroy Sutton, who lost his legs in a childhood train accident, could often be found riding on the back of Dartanyon Crockett, who was legally blind and had no permanent home. Initially drawn together by their handicaps, the boys had developed a brother-like bond and cheerful friendship, even in the face of innumerable hardships and poverty.
So Lisa told their story, in what’s been described as the best story ESPN ever aired. But after the cameras were packed away, something unusual happened. Instead of leaving, Lisa developed a relationship with these remarkable young men and started investing in their lives. She explains why this was such a different situation for her.
“You know, when I first met Leroy he wouldn’t speak to me for many days. He had trust issues. He had been abandoned by his biological mother. When I asked his coach why he wouldn’t talk to me, he explained that he probably thought I was just a “turkey lady”. One of those rich white people from across town who would come over on Thanksgiving to donate food, and then goes home – never to return – thinking they did a good deed. I was really struck by that.”
It was the image that drove her into a relationship that would bring her joy and deepen her faith.
“I was determined that I would not be another person who walked away from him. I saw in them needs that I had resources and knowledge of how to solve some of the problems, at least try to help with some of the problems they were facing. I just couldn’t imagine Jesus being in that situation and walking away from them.”
Lisa Fenn is the Edward R. Murrow Award winner behind years of television production credits at ESPN. She’s penned Carry On: A Story of Resilience, Redemption, and an Unlikely Family.On the Road with Lisa Fenn