CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This week, a very special young man will celebrate his 18th birthday.
Since the day he was born, nearly everyone who has heard Chancellor Lee Adams's story has been rooting for him.
In 1999, his father, then Carolina Panthers' player Rae Carruth, conspired to kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams. She died, but their son, Chancellor Lee, survived, born prematurely and with cerebral palsy.
While Carruth was sent to prison, his son has been raised by a faithful grandmother to be an inspiration to people all over the world.
The Adams invited Eyewitness News anchor Erica Bryant into their new home to see what life is like in the latest chapter of their powerful story.
Channel 9's coverage on Saundra and Chancellor Lee Adams:
- Saundra Adams receives special honor for helping domestic violence victims
- Chancellor Adams grandmother, Saundra, receives 'American Hero' award
- Rae Carruth's son turns 16, shares message against violence with grandmother
- When Rae Carruth is set free, son he ordered dead may be at prison gates
- 15 years later: Rae Carruth's teenage son
The boy whom some plotted to kill is now a young man and says he’s doing well. With his grandmother, Saundra Adams, by his side, Chancellor Lee has settled into a new home.
The first thing visitors see after walking in the front door of the house is a big picture of his mother, Cherica, on the wall. Chancellor Lee calls her "Mommy Angel."
His room is filled with things that make him smile, like his trophies from horseback riding, photos from vacations and quotes of scripture.
Saundra calls the new house a blessing. Their previous home was more than 20 years old and didn’t have some of the upgrades that help Chancellor Lee get around with his physical challenges.
There were maintenance issues in the old house and both bedrooms were upstairs. Saundra told Bryant that each day, Chancellor Lee would have to crawl up the steps to his room and then slide back down. Saundra also had concerns about their safety in case they ever needed to escape the home quickly, like if there was a fire.
In the new home, both of their bedrooms are on the main level. If Chancellor Lee chooses to go upstairs, there is now a motorized chair lift to help him. Saundra told Channel 9 it’s a sigh of relief and a burden lifted for them to be in the new house.
The move was made possible thanks to donors from all over the world. The financial gifts were collected through a nonprofit organization called Buffs4Life.
Jon Embree founded the organization, and Saundra and Chancellor Lee call him their "Earth Angel."
Embree currently coaches for the San Francisco 49ers. Previously, he was a coach at the University of Colorado, where a young Rae Carruth played college football.
Embree's nonprofit was designed to help former University of Colorado coaches and players in need. After hearing Chancellor Lee's story, Embree knew that he had to help. He said that initially, the goal was to provide an addition onto Saundra’s previous home. However, the contractor told him that because of the age of the structure, it would be more economical to build a new house.
Embree said that donors contributed from everywhere, and Charlotte-area citizens, in particular, gave in a big way.
There were donations ranging from $10 to $50, and others ranged from $50,000 to $60,000. In total, $150,000 was raised for the new house.
Embree said he sees his role as doing whatever Saundra feels needs to be done to meet Chancellor Lee's needs.
Saundra told Bryant that she is forever grateful and in awe of the generosity. She takes time to write notes of appreciation to everyone that donated.
Chancellor Lee is full of life, and it radiates in his joyful smile.
His birthday is Nov. 16, and Saundra plans to celebrate with a special surprise trip for him. On the weekend, they will attend church and welcome family and friends for a home-cooked meal, ice cream and cake.
As for gifts, Saundra said her grandson is easy to please. He loves DVDs and he is a sharp dresser, so he will likely get a new outfit or two to add to his wardrobe.
Going forward, Saundra hopes to do everything she can to honor the young man that he is becoming and to help him gain as much independence as possible.
Chancellor Lee's favorite subject in school is math, and he’ll graduate from high school in 2019. He will be receiving a new portable communication device so that he can initiate conversations and after high school, the goal is for him to attend courses in transitional living, and then to attend college at UNC Charlotte or Central Piedmont Community College.
Saundra joked during Bryant’s visit that Chancellor Lee will also need to get a job because "he eats a lot."
She is prayerful that her grandson can participate in vocational training programs such as those offered by Goodwill, and then pursue employment. She strongly believes that Chancellor Lee wants to be a “contributing member of society.”
Along the way, grandmother and grandson will continue to work in their ministry of forgiveness. They want to continue to spread that message to others.
They are also thinking of starting their own nonprofit, inspired by Chancellor Lee's love of wearing hats and caps. It's called "Lee's Lids," and Saundra said they hope to “put a lid on domestic violence.”
Should the day come when Saundra can no longer care for Lee on her own, she told Bryant that relatives have agreed to take over his care and move to Charlotte so that Lee can continue to live in the home he has grown accustomed to.
As Chancellor Lee enters young adulthood, his father's release from prison is imminent. Rae Carruth will be released in October of 2018.
Saundra said the last time Carruth saw his son, Chancellor Lee was only a year old. She wants Chancellor Lee to know his father and plans to send a letter to Carruth in prison in January to see if they can get on a visitation list.
In the meantime, Embree said the fundraising for Chancellor Lee will continue, as he will continue to need more support in the coming years.
If you would like to help or learn more about Embree's nonprofit, click here.
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