Austin Childers, who underwent more than 70 surgeries and countless other medical procedures, lost his 12-year battle with mitochondrial disease Wednesday. Childers was 23. His remains will be donated to aid in research for the disease.
“Austin’s love for people was so deep,” his mother, Ashley Childers, said Thursday evening. “He just wanted people around him.”
His father, Chris Childers, spoke of the medical hardships his son endured.
“Through it all, he had this disposition about him that he could just overcome,” he said. “He never quit and he never gave up and he was always smiling.”
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When visitors went to see him, Chris Childers said his son “would always turn it around and say, ‘Tell me what’s going on in your life.’ It was always about others. And it was always about putting someone before himself and never, ever complaining. He was just born that way to have this internal optimistic view of life.”
Among those who visited him in the hospital were Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson and her family. Actor Aaron Paul stopped by while filming the movie “Need for Speed” in downtown Macon. Comedian Durwood “Mr. Doubletalk” Fincher had also been a frequent visitor and had become a special friend of the family.
Childers was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease when he was playing football at First Presbyterian Day School in the seventh grade. Although he never played again, he attended every practice and every game when he was able. In August, the school named its football field “Austin Childers Field,” and he was able to attend the dedication.
Greg Moore, FPD’s athletics director, on Thursday spoke of the football field that now bears Childers’ name and what his courage and determination might mean to future students and athletes.
“Austin, for all who know him and his family, is a picture of faith and perseverance,” Moore said. “Our hope is that for generations the story of how he handled what looked like all of life’s toughest circumstances will be something to be praised and cherished.”
Moore added, “There’s a lot of lessons there that go way beyond an athletic field. But certainly, athletic teams, for a long time, should be taught that there is a way to handle adversity, and do so in a way that has a positive impact on everyone around you. And that’s the story of Austin Childers.”
A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. March 9 at Ingleside Baptist Church, according to his obituary.
His family also will greet friends from 4-7 p.m. March 7 at the FPD football field named after him.
Childers is survived by his parents; brother, Garrett; and grandparents Bill Jones, and Knox and Janelle Childers.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Austin Childers Field Fund at FPD, 5671 Calvin Drive, Macon, GA 31210.
Staff writer Joe Kovac contributed to this report, which includes information from Telegraph archives.