Thursday, July 8, 2021

Offering Hope with Each Stroke: How One Person’s Story Can Inspire Others

by Julie Lavender @JLavenderWrites

My newspaper editor gave me the assignment and contact information, and I made arrangements to meet the high-schooler and her mom at the library for an interview. Then-fifteen-year-old Tazmerria Wilson had quite the story to tell about playing on the high school’s golf team.

“During elementary school, I just had a thing for balls,” she said. “I saw all the kids playing basketball, and I wanted to play.”

Wilson is a double amputee and wears prosthetics. She said the coaches and teachers didn’t require her to play as a youngster, and she just did her own thing during class. “I taught myself to dribble,” she said.

       (photo credit Scott Bryant)

But when she got her fourth pair of legs at the age of thirteen, the same kind many Special Olympians wear, Wilson’s dream resurfaced and she told her mom she wanted to play basketball.

Admittedly protective of the fourth of her seven children, Chirika Wilson wanted to help her daughter achieve her goal. 

“I knew Taz would need some kind of therapy, some help before she’d be able to play basketball,” she said. “But my insurance wouldn’t pay for therapy.”

And that’s where some of the people that Chirika Wilson calls her daughter’s “angels” came into play.

A high school teacher for the orthopedically-impaired, Don Garrick, happened to run into Chirika just before Taz would be entering high school. Garrick knew Taz as a preschooler when he had another position with the school system.

“She said she was interested in basketball and golf, even though she’d never played either,” Garrick told me when I interviewed him. He then shared with me how he’d borrowed golf clubs from a friend and began teaching her to swing a club.

“She was extremely limited initially,” said Garrick. “Taz’s amputations are above the knee, which makes mobility more challenging. She started slow and she stayed with it.”

Taz went out for the golf team that year and made the team and that’s what brought me to the interview that day. 

I had the pleasure of sharing her story with my community through my newspaper article. With a few strokes on my computer keys, I told of a little girl who was born without a tibia bone in each leg and severe clubbed feet, who had a nine-hour amputation surgery at the age of three, and who inspired practically everyone she came in contact with because of her determination and perseverance.

Including a Board of Education physical therapist who helped Taz learn to navigate stairs with her prosthetics. For her entire school career, Taz had ridden a bus with accommodations for those who faced physical challenges. But when Taz’s older sister was a senior in high school, Taz made up her mind that she wanted to ride the bus with her sister before the sister graduated. 

After weeks of therapy and the permission stroke of the therapist’s pen, Taz’s dream became a reality. From that day on, only one bus showed up to gather the Wilson children for school. 

That same school therapist helped connect Taz with another therapist, one in a local private practice, who also happened to be a golfer. Brian saw a strength in her that was unmatched and agreed to work with her, pro bono, to help her learn how to use her high-tech prosthetics to play golf. 

With each stroke in the rehab center, Taz’s golf swing improved. 

She still played with hand-me-down clubs though, until a kind heart and a stroke of genius melded. When special education teacher and Taz’s friend Don Garrick retired, he requested donations to have custom-made golf clubs made for Tazmerria. Fellow teachers and community members stepped up, and she soon played with custom-fitted clubs.

That was three years ago, and now Taz is making headlines again. 

When the high school’s Audio-Video Technology & Film career pathway teacher and new golf coach Chad Ferrell heard about Taz’s story, he talked with her about entering the Hope Film Challenge. 

And with the stroke of judges’ pens, a 90-second winning video called “Taz’s Story” is part of an episode of Hope Givers, a series that releases in September on GPB Education, which is Georgia Public Broadcasting’s digital resources platform for educators and students, and PBS LearningMedia, the Public Broadcasting System’s national platform. 

Hope Givers executive producer Tamlin Hall said of Taz, “She was one of our winners because when we saw her film it was incredible, it was remarkable.” He traveled to my hometown to present her with a winning grant. Before he left, he offered to write Tazmerria a letter of recommendation to the University of Georgia, where she hopes to attend to major in criminal justice with an ultimate goal of becoming an FBI agent. With several strokes of his keyboard, Hall could play a major role in making that big dream come true. 

Tazmerria Wilson has been inspiring others since she was a youngster and now she inspires countless teens and adults with each stroke of her custom-made golf clubs. Three years ago, I had the pleasure of telling her story in our community newspaper, undoubtedly inspiring many with her never-quit spirit. 

Taz’s “angels,” as mom Chirika Wilson calls them, touched the lives of many with their dedication to her plight – from therapists to teachers to coaches. 

An executive producer is poised to inspire many with his upcoming Hope Givers series. 

And all these dominoes fell into place because of an amazing teenager in my hometown. 

Whose story in your hometown needs to be shared? With the stroke of your pen or computer keys, who can you inspire? To whom will you offer much-needed hope? 

Join the conversation and tell us about a story you plan to write of an amazing person in your community. We’re anxious to hear!


Julie Lavender, author of 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories, loves sharing others’ stories through newspaper and magazine articles. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and at


  1. Great post. We can make a difference in the stories we tell. If you think the news is always depressing, get your pen out.
    And what a great story. What a courageous young lady. And a great mom.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Tim. My interview with Taz and her mom is one of the many highlights of my newspaper writing! Such godly women - such inspiration! ANd, I totally agree - there are so many GREAT stories to tell to overshadow those depressing ones, and I encourage writers to do just that!!

  2. So inspiring, Julie. I love stories like this!

    1. It was such a heart-warming story for me to cover, and it just keeps getting better for sweet Taz and her mom (and all those folks that she inspires!!).

  3. Julie,

    Thank you for telling this inspiring story and reminding us that if we are aware there are these stories around us that we can write for different publications. In fact, these stories will never be told (and preserved) without our writing skills.

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

    1. These seemingly "little" stories are the very ones that need to make the headlines, right, Terry? I LOVE sharing these kinds of stories that are full of such inspiration and hope and encouragement!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Am amazing girl Julie. Thanks for showing us how far a story can go and how many can be influenced.

    1. Barbara, I just love to watch God's hand in these kinds of stories, how he puts all the dominoes into place to make a "little" story become a huge one! Such an inspiring, amazing young lady, and I'm so happy to have had a very small part in sharing her story!

  5. Just a step at a time, and look what happened. Great post, and so encouraging to so many people.

    1. Don't you just love how God can take our "little" steps to turn them into something huge for his kingdom? This amazing young lady with such perseverance and determination has inspired so many already, and I just know she's going to continue doing just that! Thanks for sharing and for your kind comments!

  6. Julie, what an effective example of a story written to celebrate accomplishments like this. I’m considering a story about a local couple that ministers to children in their neighborhood. Thank you for the encouragement.

    1. Yes, Jeannie - she is an amazing young lady, and I feel like her story has inspired so many people!!! And your story sounds like a great one that needs to be told!