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  • Writer's pictureSharon Bina

"Seth's Path: Athletics, Adversity, Determination, Achievements, Zest for Life and Resilience"

Seth's journey in organized sports began in the 4th grade. He played basketball and quickly became the leading scorer, but what truly stood out was his selflessness in involving his teammates by passing them the ball, ensuring everyone felt a part of the game. With such qualities, it came as no surprise when he was selected as the team leader.

After playing basketball his freshman year, he set his sights on making the varsity team as a sophomore. He dedicated his summer to playing on 4 teams to improve his skill. That summer he played on the J.V. and Varsity Spring and Summer Leagues along with a select team out of Bridgeport and another select team out of Dallas called “The Dirty Dozen”.

On the first day of school as a sophomore, Seth was feeling pretty good about becoming a member of the varsity team; after all, he had worked so hard during the summer for this moment. His dream to be selected for the varsity team at Azle High School and to become a player for the best basketball team in school history was here.

However, during basketball drills after school his right leg became very painful. So much in fact he was taken to a doctor. This was a turning point in Seth’s life, because he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma Cancer (a type of bone cancer). Seth and his family knew he was about to face the most significate challenge of his life outside the basketball court.

Over the next nine months, Seth underwent numerous surgeries and endured chemotherapy treatments, totaling 115 days in the hospital. As the cancer progressed, he faced a critical decision: whether to keep his leg or opt for amputation. Seth chose amputation because he realized that by keeping his leg, he would lose the ability to run, jump, or play contact sports. He was determined to amputate because in his words—-“then the only thing that will be limiting me is my ability and determination.” Now, Seth had to acquire a new skill: learning how to use a prosthetic leg.

In the summer after his sophomore year, Seth was declared cancer free and thus began his journey learning a “new normal life” as a high school student using a prosthetic leg. But being the positive and determined kid he was, a prosthetic leg was not going to detour him from playing the game he loved and he started learning to play basketball with his prosthetic leg.

Seth and the coaches decided he should play on the J.V. team that year to give him a better opportunity during this huge adjustment. As he came onto the court for his first game, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Even the Varsity Team came out of the lock room and stood at the sideline watching Seth until the end of the game. During that game, he scored five points on layups, shot a 3-pointer, grabbed several rebounds, had a couple of assists, blocked several shots, and even drew a charging foul, causing the fans to go berserk. It might not have been the achievement Seth envisioned a couple of years before, but on that day, everyone who witnessed him saw it as a remarkable accomplishment of faith, dedication, and optimism.

Seth Darnell celebrated after playing basketball with a prosthetic leg
Nothing but net

During the summer before his senior year, he was selected as a representative from Azle to attend America Legion Boy's State in Austin, which is the most respected and selective educational program of government instruction for high school students in the state.

At the start of his senior year, Endolite, the company that supplied his computerized knee, hired him as a patient/model to represent them at national shows across the United States. Additionally, Endolite featured him in a video and photo campaign targeted at their European market.

Despite being very busy, Seth was determined to live life like any other regular teenager, incorporating golf and rock climbing to his list of sport activities. During his junior year, he joined the J.V. golf team and even took part in a state amputee golfer's association tournament in Round Rock, where he impressively secured the 1st position in his age group.

Throughout his junior and senior years, Seth continued to excel academically, earning positions in the National Honor Society and PALS. He consistently set new goals for himself, and at the start of his senior year, he aimed to reclaim a spot in the top 10 at Azle High School. By the end of the school year, he successfully achieved his goal, finishing the year at the impressive rank of #10.

During his senior year, Seth received numerous awards and honors. He was recognized by the Optimist Club, awarded the 3D and Hustlin’ Hornet Most Inspirational Player in Basketball, granted a scholarship from the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, nominated for a Davey O’Brien Award, nominated for Homecoming King, and was awarded a TCU Dean scholarship. Additionally, he was invited to join an NCAA swim team to train for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. His senior class voted him as the "Most Giving," and the faculty bestowed upon him the title of "Mr. AHS” (Azle High School).

Following his graduation, Hanger, another prosthetic company he collaborated with, extended an endorsement contract to support his Paralympic aspirations. Seth traveled to Edmond, OK, to participate in the Endeavor Games, a Paralympic qualifier, where he remarkably secured seven gold medals in weightlifting, track and field, and swimming within his age group. He believed swimming presented his best opportunity to advance, and was asked by Coach Sybesma to join the TCU NCAA swim team. In addition, he made the decision to compete in the rock climbing event at the National Extremity Games in Orlando.

Just a week before the games, during his follow-up appointment, Seth's scans showed a recurrence of cancer, this time in his lungs and on his spine. The doctors delivered the devastating news….there was no known curable treatment, and unless a miracle occurred, it would take his life. Despite this heartbreaking knowledge, he still traveled to Orlando and managed to finish 4th in the nation, at the rock climbing competition.

Throughout the year, Seth faced lung surgery, numerous rounds of trial chemo and radiation sessions, which led him to put attending TCU, training for the Paralympics, and working for Endolite on hold. He even received an invitation to be part of a documentary being worked on by actor and fellow amputee, John Siciliano. Unfortunately, Seth had to decline the opportunity due to the new health issues he was facing. However, despite these setbacks, he never lost his positive outlook. Seth made time for activities like skydiving, relying on his unwavering faith in God and his determination to live a meaningful life. He prioritized God, Family, Friends, and Humor, always maintaining his infectious smile and zest for life. Even during his last days, confined to a wheelchair or bed, his primary concern remained his family, friends, God and giving back to The Community of Azle.

During this period, knowing he was terminally ill with cancer, Seth approached Dr. Randy Mask with the intention of making a difference in the lives of others and giving back to the community of Azle before his time ran out.

With this heartfelt inspiration, "2010 United" was established. “2010 United” was an organization of classmates from the class of 2010, his little brother Jared’s class. His goal was to unite the class and foster a spirit of giving and community service. Over 30 members had joined by the time Seth passed, but the movement didn’t stop there. His heavenly inspiration continued to impact the class, and by the time they graduated, "2010 United" had over 100 members who collectively contributed over 3,000 hours of community service to the city of Azle.

Azle, TX | Youth Give Back
2010 United Youth Group

At the age of 19, on July 21, 2007, Seth passed away, but he left a profound impact on the community. His life was commemorated with over 1,000 attendees at his funeral. His remarkable legacy was further celebrated in articles by the Ft. Worth Star Telegram and the Azle News. Later, the city of Azle paid tribute to him by proclaiming June 21st as Seth Darnell Day. In addition, the Texas House of Representatives, led by Charlie Geren, paid tribute to Seth by flying a Texas flag over the state capitol and reading a proclamation in his honor on the House Floor.

Darnell leaves a legacy of heroism for us all
Seth Darnell 's legacy

Throughout his courageous battle with cancer, Seth served as an inspiration to many, touching hearts with his unwavering attitude, unyielding determination, and remarkable achievements. Even after his passing, his story continues to inspire and uplift others as it is shared.

Seth Darnell's infectious smile

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