About The Outdoor Dream Foundation
James Robert “Radio” Kennedy – December 15, 2019
Radio passed away surrounded by his family last night after midnight.
“Details for his funeral will be handled by McDougald Funeral Home in Anderson. No details have been finalized at this time. Please keep his family in your prayers in this difficult time.” TLH AD John Cann
Life is full of ironies. One would think that most high schools have at least one famous student who has brought great recognition to the institution. Maybe it is a student who graduated from Harvard, maybe one who won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, maybe a famous professional football player. T. L. Hanna has had all of these, but none can come close to their most famous “student.” James “Radio” Kennedy, a 73 year-old, mentally challenged man, showed up on football field in the mid-1960’s and has been an integral part of the school ever since. At that time, he was a teenager, with a transistor radio seemingly attached to his ear, who could barely speak and had never learned to read or write. He was nicknamed “Radio” by the coaches and players. He became a fixture at football practices, standing passively and watching, until one day when he began to mimic the coaches’ signals and tried his hand at yelling out commands. At that point, he could have been labeled a distraction and sent away. But he was not. The coaches embraced him, and as coaches came and went, someone would always take over in caring for him. Eventually, Harold Jones took the job and has been his “daddy” ever since.
Generations of Hanna students and faculty had an opportunity to know Radio. Everyone has a story to tell, some of them priceless — his eating a cooler full of sandwiches that had been made for the team and stored safely on the bus; his pass-kick-and-throw half-time shows; his permanent status as a junior, with no threat of graduation; and his astounding ability to name the mascot of any team in the state. The stories could fill the pages of a lengthy book, each showing the child-like innocence and loving heart that existed within him.
It would be easy to talk about all the school did for Radio, but the miraculous thing about this story is what Radio did for the school. It is perhaps a lesson of which all of us need to be reminded. Because he was embraced by caring people, he was stimulated to learn. Because he was loved, he found his place in the world. Because people looked past his disabilities and imperfections, he found a way to make his own unique contribution to the world. What a lesson there is to be learned here. How many lost souls could be saved with a little care and attention? The thousands of students who have made their way through the halls of T. L. Hanna over the years have seen the results of the love and caring given to Radio. He had a permanent smile on his face. He was never without his ability to shake hands and hug necks. He returned exponentially whatever love was given to him. And here the irony rests. He gave back much more than he received.
In our small town of Anderson, SC, Sports Illustrated, Readers’ Digest, ESPN, CBS News, and even Hollywood have told his story, one about a disabled child in a grocery cart riding the hills behind the old McCants, arguably the most famous person to come out of Anderson.
It was destiny that he arrived on that football field some fifty years ago. He was without a Harvard degree or Pulitzer Prize or professional football contract, but his fame surpassed all of these accolades. And the story is simple: love and compassion can change lives. It has changed his, and, in return, he has changed ours, and we are better people for having known him.
Article written by Sheila Hilton, Former Principal, TL Hanna High School
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS RADIO...
Click on the image below to open the original article.
To understand the beginning of Outdoor Dream Foundation, you have to know about Radio.
Back in 1964, Radio, an 18-year-old boy from Anderson, S.C., is wandering around town and struggling through life as a mentally-challenged young man. When Coach Harold Jones of T.L. Hanna High School notices Radio and begins to include him in the high school football program, everything changes – for Radio, for the students, for the staff, and for the community.
For more than four decades, Coach Jones kept Radio under his wing. And the power of this relationship lives on today in the Outdoor Dream Foundation – a non-profit started in 2004 by Jones, and dedicated to caring for children with terminal illnesses.
Today, the mission and culture of the Outdoor Dream Foundation is nurtured and guided by Coach Harold Jones, his son, Brad Jones, and a host of other like-minded individuals who respond to human need at a fundamental level. The Outdoor Dream Foundation mission is to connect with children who are facing some of life’s biggest challenges, using the power of outdoor experiences and adults who are willing to reach out and fully embrace the reality of the child’s world – to meet them where they are.
This difficult and meaningful work is supported by a board of directors who share the passion of this mission, along side hundreds of volunteers who provide their guidance, their hearts, their time, and their wallets, as well as generous corporate sponsors, and so many individual donors.
The impact the Outdoor Dream Foundation has on these young lives is immeasurable. The stories of difficult challenges and meaningful connections will touch your heart.
This work is never-ending and we are deeply grateful for the privilege of sharing our time, our hearts, and our lives with our Dream Kids.
The story of Radio and Coach Jones has been well-documented. It first appeared as a story in Sports Illustrated in 1996, in an article by Gary Smith titled, “Someone to Lean On.”
And a full-length movie was produced from that story in 2003, titled “Radio”. It starred Ed Harris as Coach Harold Jones, Cuba Gooding Jr. as Radio, and Debra Winger as Linda Jones.