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    Donor turns teen's scholarship disappointment to joy

    The finalist for a Times scholarship becomes a winner thanks to an anonymous gift.

    By TOM ZUCCO

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


    TAMPA -- Chad Gordon lost out on a $60,000 scholarship. At least that's what he thought.

    A senior at Howard Blake Performing Arts School, he was one of 14 finalists for the 2001 St. Petersburg Times Scholarships. The top four candidates would receive $60,000. He didn't make the final cut but did get a $1,000 scholarship.

    Gordon, 18, has cerebral palsy and has to use a wheelchair to get around. He has difficulty speaking, is unable to write legibly and has no depth perception. To him, a crack in the sidewalk looks like a 10-foot valley. He can't attend school without an aide, someone to write for him and help him get to his classes.

    But he had dealt with disappointments before. When teachers didn't want him in their classes because of his disability, he proved them wrong by getting straight A's in every class since the sixth grade.

    Last Saturday morning, a Federal Express truck pulled up to his house. His mother signed for the package.

    Inside were six checks for $10,000, each from an anonymous donor.

    "It was really amazing to know someone cared that much about me," Gordon said Wednesday. "I hope I can make that person proud of me."

    The donor, who called the Times and requested anonymity, offered to give him a scholarship. "We had always hoped this would happen . . . that businesses or people in the community would help us send more kids to college," said Nancy Waclawek, Times director of development.

    An accomplished musician who uses a computerized piano to compose, Gordon plans to attend Stetson University in the fall.

    "I knew that it would be expensive for me to go because of all the extra costs. It's kind of sad that I don't work or have a job. My family does so much for me, so it's a way to help them out. All my hard work has paid off.

    "I'd like to return the favor someday."

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