Consider this fair warning that the following story may elicit a tear or two.
On Aug. 11, at the London Olympic Games, the Canadian men’s 4x100 relay team, composed of Justyn Warner, Gavin Smellie, Oluseyi Smith and Jared Connaughton, was disqualified from the finals.
For several minutes the men thought they’d won bronze. Then they got the heartbreaking news that Connaughton had stepped on the track’s line, a severe infraction.
They lost their medal, so 10-year-old Elijah Porter, of Paradise, sent them his — a Timbits minor soccer medal he won when he was four.
In a handwritten letter to Athletics Canada, Elijah expressed his pride for the relay team and his country, despite their loss.
“When I heard what happened on Aug. 11, I knew it was wrong. The rules were not right. But, at last, I realized how good you were,” wrote Elijah.
“We’re Canadians,” he continued. “We persevere. We create better lives for each other. The cold didn’t stop us from living in the North. We didn’t lose the War of 1812. We adapt and survive. We have earned our freedom,” he said.
He also pledged his future support for Canadian Olympians.
“Someday, if I become a biologist, If I get rich, and If I remember, I will donate money to the summer and winter Canadian Olympians.”
He finished with, “I hope you like the metal!”
The Telegram reached Elijah and his mother, Kim Porter, Tuesday evening, but it wasn’t easy. The family’s phone had been ringing all day with journalists across the country wanting to talk to them.
“I’m overwhelmed,” laughed Porter. “I had no idea this would happen.”
She express-mailed the letter on Tuesday. What she’d sent to Athletics Canada over the weekend was a photo of the letter and her son’s medal. It went viral on the Internet after that organization posted it on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Porter said Elijah got the idea to write the Olympians after watching Saturday’s race.
“He was really quiet. I knew something was in his mind,” she said.
He asked for a pen and paper and announced he was going to his room to write a letter.
“I just left him. He’s the type that getting him to write a sentence is torture, so I was all for it,” she said.
He called out a couple of times, asking for the team members’ names and how to spell a few a words but that’s pretty much all the help she gave him.
He also decided to send the team his medal.
“He’s cherished that. It’s the only medal he’s ever had. His dad has medals in his office so he hanged it up next to his dad’s,” said Porter.
Elijah said he just wanted to cheer up the relay team.
“I don’t really use my medal, so I thought they might like it,” he said.
He wrote the letter to encourage the team to do better next time.
“I just decided to write it because I knew that they felt bad, and I just wanted to make them feel good,” he said.
“To give them confidence for next time. So they feel better. There might be other places with more things than Canada but that doesn’t mean we aren’t special in some ways.”
His mom just said he’s got a big heart.
“He’s the kind of kid that — for a birthday party I’ll go out and buy a nice gift. He’ll find his most treasured thing, that we would probably think is junk, and give it away,” she said.
Rob Guy, chief executive officer of Athletics Canada, told The Telegram that in all his years in sports he’s never seen anything like Elijah’s gift.
“I’ve been involved in sport for a long time. ... I’ve never seen anybody wanting or willing to do that. That’s very cool,” he said.
“Obviously this is a great kid, with a big heart, and it’s very special that he’d do what he’s doing, not just for the guys on our relay team but for Canada as a whole.”
The team has received tremendous support from Canadians since its disqualification, he added, and this boy’s gesture has reinforced that.
At least two members of the track team shared Elijah’s letter via Twitter.
Justin Warner tweeted “10yr old Elijah Porter (Nfld) knows the 4x100 team are heros, do you?”
It didn’t take long before the media picked up on the letter. By Tuesday, most of the larger news organizations in the country had the story posted online. It was also being shared heavily on social media websites.
Canadians seemed truly touched by Elijah’s gesture of comfort.
Jared Connaughton’s mother, Susan Quinn Connaughton, posted her appreciation for the letter and medal on Facebook.
“Elijah, you are a true Canadian and your words brought tears to my eyes, Jared Connaughton is my son and I know your letter will lift his spirits, good things will come to you!!”
Many others did the same.
“An excellent choice for a Canadian medal .... Thank you Elijah,” wrote Bruce Laughlen.
Karen Elliott wrote, “Elijah, I hope you get to meet the Canadian men's 4x100m team. They need to hoist YOU on their shoulders!”
Others were more skeptical of the letter.
Adam Gomes posted, “Is this actually real? Am I missing something? He writes like a kid but it sounds like a presidential speech. I'm sorry but I'm not convinced. I'm calling shinanigans on this one.”
Porter said she’s heard some comments like that one, but she refuses to let them bother her.
She and her husband, Steve, homeschool their children, and she said Elijah is a smart boy. The letter is wholly his.
“If you knew Elijah — that’s just the way he is.”