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By Selena Stevens

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"(Travis Freeman) is a sensitive and lively student who interacts well with others -- not 'despite his handicap' but because of his intelligence and social strength."

-- Pam Kremer, an Honors Program assistant professor

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April 14, 2000 – (Lexington, Ky.) – At age 12, Travis Freeman lost his sight to a battle with bacterial meningitis. But the disease that could easily have taken his life, didn’t take his will.

He continued, with help from his teammates, in his position as center for the Corbin High School football team. He graduated ninth in his class as an “A” student and a member of the National Honor Society. He came to the University of Kentucky in the fall of 1999 to study business management. He became a member of the Honors Program, and he joined the UK football team as a student manager at the request of coach Hal Mumme.

After his first year in college, he is being honored by UK faculty, staff and students who have been inspired by his will. He is the 2000 recipient of the Carol S. Adelstein Outstanding Student Award, given annually to a student with a disability who best serves as an inspiration to the University community through excellence in academic achievement, leadership, extracurricular activities or social and personal qualities.

“He’s a superior student and an impressive person,” said Pem Kremer, an Honors Program assistant professor who nominated Freeman for the award. “He’s a sensitive and lively student who interacts well with others – not ‘despite his handicap’ but because of his intelligence and social strength.”

Freeman said receiving the award is a great honor, especially since he is the first freshman to win it. However, he said he didn’t do anything special to earn the award.

“I don’t’ think of my blindness as a disability or a handicap. It’s just me,” he said. “That in turn is an inspiration to some people.”

Rather than a hindrance, his blindness is a challenge from God, he said.

“I know he has a purpose for this. He had a purpose right from the beginning,” Freeman said.

Doctors have estimated that Freeman is one of only two people known to recover from bacterial meningitis with only the loss of eyesight. The disease kills 70 percent of people it infects and causes the remaining 30 percent to become invalids.

When not in class or working with the football team, Freeman shares his message with others. He is a frequent speaker with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Freeman will receive a plaque commemorating his Adelstein Award and a $1,000 check at a 3:30 p.m. April 13 ceremony. He is the son of Larry and Mary Freeman of Corbin and a 1999 graduate of Corbin High School.

The award is named for the late Carol S. Adelstein, wife of retired UK English professor Michael Adelstein. Carol Adelstein, who used a wheelchair because of polio, provided an inspiration to persons with disabilities by leading a meaningful, successful life at a time when individuals with disabilities were not encouraged to be independent and contributing members of society.

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