Tejeda puts his smiles all over South weight room

The new year is only almost two weeks old, but we already have a leader in the clubhouse for the best Feel Good Moment of 2020.

If you were at the weight room dedication at Nashua High School South early last week, you know what we mean.

Has there ever been a more popular athlete at the school than recent graduate Nate “Smiley” Tejeda?

That’s why last Monday the hallway leading up to the school weight room was packed – we mean really packed, no room to breathe – with kids a little while after dismissal.

Here’s the deal: As many already know and was written in this space, Tejeda, a former Panther three sport athlete who is now wrestling at Springfield College, was diagnosed last March with Hodgkins Lymphoma. He not only beat it, he pinned it, sacked it for a loss, and slammed it out of the park. By August he was able to compete for New Hampshire in the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Game against Vermont. Amazing.

But while he was undergoing treatment in Boston, he was made aware of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which earmarks funds in a patient’s name for the cause of his or her choosing.

“He came into my office last spring and said, ‘Coach, you know I get this Make A Wish,'” South football coach Scott Knight told the assembled crowd outside the weight room. “He pulled up a video on YouTube and showed me this weight room out west of a high school. I said, ‘You sure you want to do this? You don’t want to go to Hawaii somewhere?’

“That’s what makes him so unique.He’s one of the most caring, genuine people I’ve ever been around.”

As Knight said, Tejeda won’t benefit from the rennovation, which included new equipment, a paint job, etc. He’s doing this for a community he really loves.

“The social workers, they talk to you every day, and they said, ‘You’re under 18, so you qualify for Make-A-Wish.’ ,” Tejeda said. “At that time, I already knew what I wanted to do, so let’s start this as soon as possible.”

Tejeda said he saw a video of someone else redoing their gym via Make-A-Wish, and that’s when he knew.

“I was like, ‘What better opportunity for me to do this’,” he said. “I know I love weight lifting, I love this school, love everything about it. Let me just combine this ability I have now and just give it to the people. It’s just another opportunity for me to give back to the community. Like that plaque out there says, it’s more than just a wish, an opportunity to give back.”

Squat racks, bars, new weights, refurbished equipment/furniture. Coaches and volunteers worked over the holidays tirelessly to do all the work.

“I love Springfield college, it’s treating me well,” he said. “Wrestling’s going great, I’m able to balance everything really well.”

How well? Tejeda currently has a 3.8 grade point average with a major of exercise science. He’d like to work with oncology patients on how to move on to a healthy life. Currently he gets scanned every three months. All thumbs up.

A sign over the weight room entrance has the quote from Tejeda: “It’s more than just a wish, it’s my opportunity to give back.”

Knight says Tejeda has given back on a regular basis all along.

“You talk about community service, that was going on long before this,” Knight said of Tejeda. “If you want to take a page out of his book, that’s the guy, OK? We can’t thank him enough…”

When the doors opened, kids rushed into the weight room with a roar, and immediately began working out. It’s not for football, or wrestling, but for all the sports and all the student athletes.

Tejeda’s family was with him, and there were emotional hugs all around.

So go ahead. Try to top this for the best feel good local sports story of 2020.

You’ve got 11-plus months to try. It won’t be easy.

But yeah, Hawaii had to be tempting.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK, or tking@nashuatelegraph.com