Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2012
When Curtiss Shaver was 18, he didn’t expect he’d ever be known outside of Troy.
“Honestly, after my accident I was just hoping I’d walk again,” Shaver said, surrounded by friends and community members Wednesday morning outside Troy Fire Station No. 1.
Now, at 37, Shaver is a lieutenant for the same fire department that saved his life after a farming accident that left him an amputee. He’s also the deserving winner of a contest that places his name on the title of a nationally watched NASCAR race.
Shaver was one of five hometown heroes selected by Crown Royal for a competition where “fans” voted for the hero they’d most like to see recognized. He was nominated for the “Your Hero’s Name Here” contest by fellow firefighter Lt. Brandy Cox who has known Shaver since the pair were teenagers.
“Curtis is very determined in everything he does,” Cox said. “He puts a lot of effort into life in general. He has a huge heart, just a great guy. He loves his job, loves his family, loves his community and everything he does shows he puts that love into it.”
More than a hundred people gathered to hear the news and watched as a gigantic purple and gold banner unfurled from the ladder of a fire truck. The banner read, “Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com.”
Click here to view photos from the ceremony.
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“I can’t tell you how special it is to have everyone join us here today,” said Yvonne Briese, Vice President of Marketing for the company that manufactures Crown Royal. “I am so very proud to be here. This truly is my favorite thing I do all year long.”
And Briese wasn’t the only out-of-towner who made a special trip to Troy just to congratulate Shaver. Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and CEO Jeff Belskus, country music recording artist Justin Moore and Scott Borchetta with Valory Music Group (Big Machine Records) were all on hand to give their thanks to Shaver for his community service.
“When they told us it was going to be a firefighter from Troy, Ala. that was going to win, I literally got goose bumps because, since 9-11, I think we all have a heightened awareness of who the true heroes are for the United States of America,” Borchetta said.
Moore had been in Nebraska the morning of the ceremony and jumped on a plane to make the event.
“I grew up in a town just like this, so I know these types of communities and how they operate. And they are the best places in the world to raise kids,” Moore said to Shaver. “Thank you for serving your country.”
Shaver worked hard to build up stamina and learn to successfully maneuver with a prosthetic limb after he lost his leg. It was his accident and the response of other hometown heroes that prompted Shaver to seek a career of service and he became a volunteer firefighter less than two years after the accident.
“I never, ever even dreamed of being a fireman or a paramedic until after my accident. I just wanted to be one of them guys that could make a difference in someone’s life,” Shaver said.
Mayor Jimmy Lunsford was part of Shaver’s hiring process for the City of Troy.
“An application was brought to me, several years ago now, with the possibility of hiring a handicapped person for a fireman,” Lunsford said, admitting that he shared the same concerns most people would about that request. “And then I got to meet Curtiss Shaver. I promise you there was never, ever a doubt of him becoming a firefighter in Troy, Ala.”
Shaver said he was grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community in the same way the firefighters that rescued him did.
“Thank you to the City of Troy, Mayor Jimmy Lunsford and the council for giving me a chance to prove myself. I made a vow that I would never let you down and from this day forward I never will. I will continue to always give you 100 percent of what you deserve out of me and out of our fire department,” Shaver said in front of Wednesday’s crowd.
“He says he gives 100 percent,” said Shaver’s former Capt. Willie Parker. “But he always gives 110 percent as far as I’m concerned.”
“Curtiss worked on my shift when I was a lieutenant and he was one of the best firefighters on the shift,” said Troy Fire Chief Thomas Outlaw. “He was always one of the first firefighters out of the station in his turnout gear. He was just fantastic.”
Along with having the race named after him, Shaver will ride in the pre-race pace car, deliver the trophy bearing his name to the race winner in Victory Lane and kiss the bricks following the race.
Shaver was able to practice by kissing his own brick at the hometown event in Troy. Crown Royal orchestrated a special ceremony that resulted in the laying of a replica “Yard of Bricks” outside the station.
Shaver said, even more than watching the race in Indianapolis on July 29, he’ll be honored to meet the other finalists from the contest.
“They are great heroes and outstanding people. I can’t wait to meet them and shake their hands and tell them, ‘Thank you,’ for what they’ve done for my family, my community and my country,” Shaver said. “They are great examples of what America is all about.”
Various events and celebrations will take place leading up to and throughout the race weekend to recognize Shaver, according to Crown Royal. There will also be special concerts in Shaver’s honor by The Band Perry, The Mavericks, Justin Moore and Greg Bates.