2014 Heart of Houston Recipient

Randy Turner, Jr., 2014 Heart of Houston Recipient




Randy Turner Jr., a member of the Oak Park Jazz Band, has osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that prevents the body from developing strong bones. Turner was honored for his hard work and determination Thursday by former Alabama football standout Jeremiah Castille.

If there is anything to classify as wrong that happened for Oak Park student Randy Turner Jr. on Thursday, it would be playing the Alabama fight song.

“I’m an Auburn fan,” he said with a smile. “But I guess it was OK to play it because both colleges are in Alabama.”

Turner, who is part of the Oak Park Jazz Band, played the song to welcome former Alabama All-American defensive back Jeremiah Castille to the stage.

Moments after his arrival, Castille brought Turner to the front of the stage to honor him.

Turner, who has had more than 10 surgeries and been in a wheelchair since birth, received the Heart of Houston award. Castille’s foundation gives the honor annually to a middle school student, who despite hardships, maintains a fighting spirit and determination to succeed. Turner, 14, has osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that prevents the body from developing strong bones. People with the disease suffer bone breaks easily. The Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation estimates between 20,000 and 50,000 people worldwide have the disorder.

Gifted teacher Robin Gillespie, who was one of two to nominate Turner for the award, said she couldn’t think of a more deserving person. “When I looked at the requirements, I never had a doubt that Randy would win,” she said. “He doesn’t make excuses and never asks to be excused from activities. He doesn’t view his disorder as a disability. He sees it as a possibility. ”Turner, an eighth-grader, is in Gillespie’s Talented and Gifted classroom. He said he was surprised when Castile called his name. “I was like, ‘Me?’ ” he said.

Turner received a $1,000 scholarship to the college of his choice, a Bible and an Alabama football signed by Castille. Reading from the motto of his foundation, he encouraged Turner to “invest, influence, impact and invest” in his future.

“He already does a lot of this,” Oak Park Principal Ashley McIntyre said. “You can’t find a more positive person in the halls of Oak Park.” Band teacher Mandy Irvin had similar sentiments about Turner. “He’s awesome,” she said before recalling the time when Turner played the drums with a broken arm. “He just played and never complained.” Turner said he learned “many years ago” that complaining wouldn’t change his condition. “You can’t go far when you complain,” he said. “Sometimes you have to accept some of the challenges you have to do in life and move on.”


By Deangelo McDaniel Staff Writer | Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:00 pm | DECATUR DAILY