Written by Teresa Dennard.

A boy's rise over  his life's giants

Anyone that listens to KGAS Radio is familiar with the World Famous Swap Shop that airs weekday mornings at 9:00 am. Although many enjoy listening to the program, no one is a bigger fan than Victor Turner. A vivacious, 12 year old who listens to Swap Shop any time he’s not attending classes at Baker-Koonce, Victor fell in love with the ‘buy, sell or trade’ show and claims Mark Bownds to be his “Main Man.” Knowing how much Victor loves Swap Shop, his grandfather, James Speer, made arrangements for him to visit the KGAS studio to see Bownds in action. “When I took him up there,” recalls Speer, “I thought we would sit in the other room and watch Mark through the glass, but he told us to come on in.” Victor was in heaven. Not only did he get to be in the newsroom and watch Bownds in action, he also got to participate. The listening audience loved him.

Lots of people fall in love with Victor. It’s not hard to do. He’s an outgoing, happy child, but in his short twelve years, he’s faced more giants than most people face in a lifetime.

It all began with Paul Turner’s cousin who decided to give up her child for adoption. She contacted Paul and his wife Dyan who were living in Arkansas, and they immediately accepted. Victor was a healthy, beautiful baby boy that was the answer to their prayers. Life was good. Dyan had taken a leave from her job to be a stay-at-home mom and Paul had recently received a promotion with better pay and better insurance benefits. He’d come home every day for lunch to spend time with his wife and new son. But that was soon to be short lived. On June 11, Paul received a call telling him that Dyan and Victor had been in a serious car accident. Dyan suffered an aneurism from a torn blood vessel deep inside her brain, an injury from which no one had survived before. Victor had traumatic brain injuries. Dyan was pronounced brain dead and nothing further could be done. Paul prayed that God would not take his son too.

In the next 2 ½ years, Victor was in and out of Arkansas Children’s Hospital several times. He was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, better known as “water on the brain.” It is a condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain that causes enlargement of the head. “They caught it pretty quickly and that’s when they put the shunt in,” says Paul. “After that he started taking off and doing really well and surpassed all doctor’s expectations.” Paul’s mother and mother-in-law helped out each week caring for Victor so he could go back to work. When the grandmothers were exhausted from this routine, Paul’s sister came to the rescue. She moved in to help with Victor, working on her master’s degree while he was in therapy every day. Paul began to pray for a mother for Victor and a wife for himself. He joined the eHarmony website and was matched with Kim Speer from Carthage. Paul remembers, “On our first date in Marshall, Moon River was playing on the restaurant’s music system as Kim got out of her car. That was my parents’ song together.” He wondered if this was coincidence or an answer to his prayers. A year later, Paul and Kim were married.

Kim and daughter Cameron moved to Arkansas to start their new lives together with Paul and Victor. It wasn’t long before the new blended family decided that Carthage was the place they needed to be. The house sold within a week after being put on the market, and within a short period of time, Paul was able to land a job close to Carthage. Prayers were being answered.

Victor started school in Carthage. He was in mainstream classes until second grade, but his attention span was not good enough to function in that setting. He was moved to Ashlee Alexander’s special education class where his learning improved considerably. Because of his brain injury, Victor functions a lot like an autistic child. He has an incredible memory and can recite telephone numbers and items for sale on Swap Shop with ease. “He has a CD of Brother Tilley preaching,” says his grandfather, “and he can recite it almost word for word.” He’s a really good shot in basketball as well. “Victor loves Coach Preston,” continues Speer. “One day all the boys in p.e. class were acting up so Coach Preston told them to get on the line and if Victor makes the free throw, they don’t have to run. If he misses, they have to run a lap. They’re all yelling for Victor and when he makes it, all the boys run over and dog pile him. We can go to a football game and while we’re walking in front of the stands, people are yelling at him. He usually just acknowledges them by throwing up his hands. We’ve lived here for 35 years, and I thought I knew everybody in town, but Victor knows more people than I do.”

Victor is always a good-natured and happy-go-lucky kind of guy. He likes sports, videos, playing on his Wii and eating cheese enchiladas at Jalapeno Tree on Friday nights with his family. He loves Toby Keith, grilled chicken sandwiches at Sonic on Saturday mornings with his dad and Steve Harvey on Family Feud. And, of course, he loves Swap Shop. His mom, Kim, says, “Everywhere we go kids as well as adults stop to talk to him. We can’t make a trip to Walmart or the grocery store without somebody, even a complete stranger, making a comment about his hair. They always want to touch it.”

Victor’s a pretty good boy…good natured and doesn’t do much to get into trouble. He’s got a big heart, loves the “outsider,” and gets upset when other kids get in trouble. He loves to laugh and make other people laugh. He’s been through a lot, but no one would ever know. The giants he has faced in his life have been large, but just like the story David and Goliath, Victor and his family have overcome those giants with God by their side. With faith, when one door closes, another always opens.