What could have been a heart-breaking conclusion to a young cancer survivor's triathlon instead emerged as one of the year's most inspiring moments when he was instead scooped up by a Marine and carried to the finish line.
As reported by ABC News, CNN and a variety of other outlets, 11-year-old Ben Baltz was competing in the Sea Turtle childrens triathlon when his prosthetic leg broke roughly halfway through the final one-mile run that concluded the event, with a screw coming loose and the prosthetic buckling and breaking as a result.
For Baltz, who lost the lower portion of his right leg during a battle with bone cancer at the age of 6, the broken prosthetic was just the most recent of some 10 that he has shattered during his very active youth. Still, Baltz had never broken a prosthetic in the middle of a race, and the accident came a half a mile from the finish line, a distance much too far for Baltz to complete on a single leg.
That's when a group of Marines sprung into action. Pfc. Matt Morgan, a 19-year-old Marine from San Diego who was volunteering at the kids event ran up to check on Baltz, who scrambled to fix his prosthetic after he collapsed when it broke. After a few moments of fumbling with the now shattered prosthetic, Morgan realized that the boy would be unable to finish the race under his own power, so he instinctively scooped up Baltz and began to run toward the finish line.
"He said no, he'd finish by himself and he continued to try and fix his prosthetic. But after a couple seconds, he knew there was something wrong with it and he was going to need a hand," Morgan told ABC News. "He was going to finish the race no matter what, but I told him to jump on and we finished the race together."
What happened next was even more moving, if possible. Once Morgan started running toward the finish line with Baltz on his back, all the other Marines on the course began lining up behind the piggyback pair in double file, creating an impromptu military procession all the way through the finish line, leaving nary a dry eye along the course.
When Baltz's mother, Kim Baltz, first saw her son being carried toward the finish line, it was almost too much for her to maintain her composure.
"It just made me start crying that they would have picked him up and helped him finish the race," the elder Baltz told ABC News.
"We want to give him the message that he can do anything, and he has an inspirational story, and he just needs to be thankful that he is able to do it because there are a lot of kids out there that are still fighting cancer," Baltz told CNN. "We just want him to get out there and participate in life."
In one recent inspiring moment he experienced life in a very active way thanks to a little bit of help, all inspiring others to appreciate what they have even more in the process.