Shae Stelly is starting to make an impact on people’s lives beyond the limits of the town of Cecilia.
The 17-year-old Cecilia High senior, who is confined to a wheelchair because he was born with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, received a surprising scholarship at a baseball banquet in the school’s cafeteria Tuesday night. After being one of two players to receive the annual coach’s award, Stelly was presented a $1,000 scholarship from the St. Martin de Tours Foundation.
“The room was filled with excitement after we gave him the coaches award,” Cecilia’s longtime baseball coach Jaime Calais said. “And then I told the audience that we had a baseball scholarship to give away. At that moment you could hear a pin drop.”
“After they gave him the scholarship it was very humbling to see that. Parents and players came up to Shae afterwards to congratulate him. I was speechless. This is why we do this.”
In addition to Cecilia players and parents on hand, members of St. Martin Parish District Attorney’s Office and foundation founder and Lafayette-based attorney Barry J. Sallinger were there to present the scholarship.
The group of attorneys were also moved by the moment.
“I am honored and absolutely humbled,” Sallinger said. “He has definitely moved the emotions of many people in the community, and he has lived a life that we all can look at when we feel that we can’t go on.
“At times we don’t really fully appreciate what we have. Shae puts that all in crystal-clear focus. He is an inspiration.”
The foundation’s primary goal is to assist students pursuing a formal education after high school who have displayed perseverance under challenging circumstances. The foundation gives out a handful of scholarships every year, but the scholarship that Stelly received is dedicated to honor the late Kim Kidd, a former assistant district attorney in St. Martin Parish, who was an avid baseball fan.
For the foundation’s vice president Dane Lanter, who was born with a rare birth defect himself, Stelly was the clear-cut choice to receive the scholarship.
“What stood out to me was imagining him going through school and also doing baseball with his disability,” Lanter said. “I also have a disability called Morquio syndrome. So I definitely know how hard it is to go to school, work hard and get good grades. But he did extracurricular activities that I never did on that scale. That stood out to me.”
The past month has been one of celebration for Stelly.
He saw his first game action of his career in a 5-0 win over St. Martinville on April 21. Stelly recorded a hit, rounded the bases and scored as he was mobbed by teammates at home plate. He then cheered on his teammates as the Bulldogs advanced to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
With scholarship in hand, Stelly now prepares to attend the Louisiana-Lafayette in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Sallinger said that Stelly will continue to serve as inspiration moving forward.
“We are just honored to have played a part,” Sallinger said. “I mean that with all sincerity. He is a special person. He deserves every opportunity to enhance his life’s opportunities. He can help so many other people. He can make other people reflect on their lives and affect positive change with them.”