One Upstate family has experienced the grief of losing their son at the peak of his life, but they're using his death to help inspire others.
Heath Benedict was an All-American football player in high school and at Newberry College. Experts thought the 6'6", 326-pound lineman would be taken during the first day of the NFL draft.
He was one of those guys who everyone loved to root for.
"He was an extrovert, he probably never met anyone he didn't like," said Ed Benedict, Heath's father. "He was very talkative, the life of a party."
But in March 2008, two weeks before the draft, no one could find him and he wasn't answering his phone.
"We finally tracked him down by his vehicle and he was at our house in Florida," said Ed Benedict. "We had some neighbors get in the house and he had basically fallen asleep on the couch and never woke up."
Benedict had died from an enlarged heart - a condition that had never been diagnosed.
Not long after his death, family and friends began donating to a memorial fund at the family's church, but the money sat untouched until the Benedicts were inspired by another promising teenage athlete.
Jake Olson, 15, is an excellent golfer who happens to be blind. After battling cancer since age 1, Olson lost sight in both eyes three years ago.
Thanks to his faith, Olson never lost sight of his goal to be the first blind golfer on the PGA tour.
The Benedicts decided to use the memorial fund to help Olson, bringing him from California to the Upstate.
"He's a blind person, athlete, who's done well and who has a bright outlook on life," said Ed Benedict. "You hear so many kids and people today say I can't find a job and I can't do that. Well, my thought is, in the middle of can't is the word can, and that's something that Heath would have really enjoyed giving back to the community."
To hear more about Olson's remarkable journey, the public can attend "Open Your Eyes to a Happier Life," a free event planned for Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at Covenant United Methodist Church in Greer.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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