Guntersville teen swimmer with 1 arms, no legs inspires others while finding his purpose
Guntersville High School senior Gabe Marsh inspires others every day.
Everyone from parents to teachers to classmates sees it.
Gabe has learned to accept stares and understand how his mere presence inspires others.
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He was born without legs and with one arm. His mother immediately put him up for adoption and he joined his adoptive parents before he was a week old.
“He was unwittingly a hero to who knows how many,” said Guntersville professor Matt Holaday. “You know, he just is. He just digs life. He’s not trying to be a hero. He just likes to live. He is after. He is one of those you like to be around. It’s not trying to be a showboat either. He simply does.
“He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever known, not because he’s overcome so much, but because he’s just a good guy.”
Marsh is preparing to graduate from Guntersville High after a remarkable career as a youth and high school swimmer. He reluctantly uses a motorized wheelchair at school, but prefers a scooter powered by his left arm when going pretty much anywhere else.
Gabe was shortlisted for the Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Athlete of the Year award last week at the annual Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Banquet in Birmingham. Over $380,000 in scholarships were awarded to 104 high school graduates who were regional winners.
“He doesn’t realize he’s disabled,” said Ann Marsh, his adoptive mother. “He doesn’t want to be disabled and he doesn’t feel disabled. He feels like everyone else. »
The best example of this attitude? “He doesn’t like using a wheelchair, period,” she said.
Gabe expressed deep gratitude for a long list of people who have helped him – some in small ways, some in big ways – and believes personal success will reward them for their kindness and leadership. He also credits his deep Christian faith, fostered by his parents’ devotion, for helping him deal with his personal challenges.
From birth, Ms Marsh recalls, others took pity on Gabe because of his physical difficulties. But he quickly developed a streak of independence, and the Marsh family nurtured it by “treating him like other kids,” she said.
The Marais, now in their seventies, have adopted 10 children and welcomed dozens of others. They were known to take in children with physical challenges or medical needs and adopted another child with Down syndrome.
Gabe said he remembers people staring at him for as long as he can remember. He reacted with “righteous anger” to motivate him. “I never really doubted myself,” he said
The best example of his self-confidence is in his swimming career.
Ann Marsh believed that every child should learn to swim, especially since the family had a pool in their backyard. She usually taught them when they were 4 years old. “I was the only one she couldn’t teach,” Gabe said.
Gabe, of course, largely taught himself to swim and adopted it. He then swam with the local Northeast Alabama club and at the high school level.
At first, everyone marveled at Gabe’s ability to swim.
“Now we don’t think about it anymore,” Ann Marsh said. “It’s not much. But other people…”
Gabe dreams of eventually earning a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team, possibly as early as 2024.
“He is an inspiration to so many people when they see him swimming,” his mother said. “He went to several churches and youth groups, and he spoke to them as a motivational speaker. He’s just an awesome kid.
Gabe plans to attend Snead State Community College in the fall before eventually studying theology with the goal of serving in Christian ministry. He also wants to continue as a motivational speaker.
As Gabe pointed out, the first job of any speaker is to grab the audience’s attention. His appearance – no arms and only one leg – accomplishes this task immediately.
“I kind of want to be the best speaker in the world,” Gabe said.
Gabe said his favorite Bible verse is Ephesians 2:10: “For we are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God hath prepared beforehand for us to do.
Gabe, known as “Mr. Journalism” at school for his work with the local newspaper, said he can continue to inspire a wider audience through public speaking, even as he motivates every day the people of his hometown.
“He’s definitely a shining light in our hallways every day,” said Guntersville assistant manager and athletic director Darren James. “Gabe always has a positive attitude and a drive towards him. He has already achieved so much and aims to do so much more. He is an inspiration to all of us at GHS and to members of our community.