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McCULLOUGH, Jon Jon McCullough, Paralympian, disability rights advocate and executive director of Blaze Sports America, died Friday August 15, 2014, at the Veterans Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, of esophageal cancer. He was 48. Born November 29, 1965, in Bremerhaven, Germany, he graduated from Rappahannock County High School, Washington, VA, in 1985, and served in the U.S. Coast Guard. A disabled veteran, Jon sustained traumatic brain injury and permanent neck and shoulder damage in an accident while his Coast Guard cutter was on drug patrol in heavy seas. Following a medical discharge, he attended The American University in Washington, D.C., graduating with a degree in Environmental Health. His advocacy of sports for individuals with disabilities began while he was at AU with his volunteer service as competition coordinator for the men's standing volleyball team. He went on to try out for the national men's soccer team and was a starter for Team USA for 12 years, playing in the Paralympics in Atlanta and Athens and carrying the Paralympic torch in the ceremonies to begin the 2012 games in London, England. He played in three World Championships and three Para-Pan American Games, was named to the World All-Star team in 1988 and earned the tournament's sportsmanship award. McCullough was also chosen by his peers to be athlete coordinator for the 2002 Paralympic in Salt Lake City, the 2005 Innsbruck World University Games, the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, and the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. McCullough's passion for soccer also led him to serve in leadership and volunteer roles with the Olympics and Paralympics. He was a member and chair of the U.S. Olympic Committees Athletes Advisory Council, a Chairman of U.S. Soccer's Athletes Council, and a member of U.S. Soccer's Board of Directors. McCullough also served on the International Paralympic Committee's Athlete Council and the USOC's Paralympic Advisory Committee. At the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, McCullough was a keynote speaker for the Man-Up Summit, a week-long gathering of 150 international delegates seeking to develop domestic initiatives to end violence against women and girls, using sport and music as tools. Also in South Africa, McCullough was a facilitator for FIFA's youth initiative, Football for Hope. For the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, he developed a conflict resolution program centered on soccer first implemented in the former Yugoslavia. With children from the different sides of the conflict playing together on the same teams, the games were broadcast on national television and featured in the World Bank film, Transcending Sport.In 2013, McCullough became executive director of Blaze Sports America, based in Decatur, Georgia. A non-profit heritage organization from the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, Blaze provides children and adults with physical disabilities the opportunity to improve and enrich their lives through participation in athletics and competitive sports. McCullough is survived by his mother, Daphne I. Hutchinson, of Washington, VA; two brothers, Joseph E. McCullough of Anchorage, AK, and James P. McCullough of Nassau, Bahamas, and one sister, Katherine J. Hutchinson of Washington, VA. A memorial service celebrating Jon McCullough's life will be held at 4pm on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, at the 4-H Education Center in Front Royal, VA. The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be made as donations to BlazeSports America. A. S. Turner & Sons Funeral Home & Crematory.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Aug. 20, 2014
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