Community Connections Profiles

For the Pedersons, “Live Like a Champ” means winning on and off the field

Tyger, Champ and Joc Pederson. Photo credit: LA Dodgers

Champ Pederson is a guy who truly lives up to his name. From his medals for track and field, to his job at the Palo Alto Apple store, Champ brings a zest for life to everything he does.

photo credit: Jacey Pederson/twitter

photo credit: Jacey Pederson/twitter

And Champ is just one of the extraordinary Pederson siblings: Joc Pederson plays center field for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tyger Pederson plays for the Dodgers’ Rookie team and Jacey Pederson was a standout soccer player at Paly who is now playing for UCLA. The athletic genes are not hard to trace: Stu Pederson played professional baseball for many years before he returning to his home town to raise his family in Palo Alto.

Learning from his family about how to embrace sports and life

But while Champ grew up playing sports and relishing any opportunity to compete with his siblings, his trajectory as an athlete was a bit different from Joc, Tyger and Jacey. That’s because Champ was born with Down Syndrome.

As Joc Pederson recalled in an article for the Player’s Tribune: “When we were younger, Champ would play baseball with us, but then he had his own Challenger Division and Special Olympics teams. He would wrestle with Tyger and I, and he was always the strongest one. We knew not to mess with Champ — he would get you in a clinch and not let go. But I’d say Champ’s best sport is basketball. We would always shoot hoops and he has a good jump shot.”

Live Like a Champ advocates for inclusion and support
Champ at his press conference. Photo credit: Best Buddies

Champ at his press conference. Photo credit: Best Buddies

That’s why Champ, Joc and the Pederson family started the “Live Like a Champ” effort to advocate for inclusion and support for people with disabilities. Live Like a Champ merchandise raises funds for Best Buddies, an organization that enhances the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing opportunities for socialization and employment.

Professional athletes love Champ and #Buddies

Live Like a Champ has been embraced by professional athletes including Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Justin Turner and others. Albert Pujols, whose daughter also has Down Syndrome, gave Champ a big hug during the Gillette Homerun Derby in 2015 (see the video here).

photo credit: Live Like A Champ #Buddies

photo credit: Live Like A Champ #Buddies

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ Pederson at Dodger’s Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players’ Tribune)

Champ “melds” his family together

“Champ supports us in everything we do, so we make sure we’re always there whenever possible when he is doing something — whether he’s giving a speech, working as a Best Buddies ambassador, or competing at the Special Olympics. We rally together because ever since we were little, Champ’s been there cheering us on,” Joc said in Player’s Tribune.

photo credit: John Soo Hoo/Dodgers

photo credit: John Soo Hoo/Dodgers

As Shelly Pederson explained to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The boys admire Champ so much for the qualities he has…they  know what is inside Champ, what he brings and how how smart and humorous he is. He melds them altogether.”

“That extra chromosome makes us special…”
Tyger, Champ and Jacey Pederson. Photo credit: SF Chronicle

Tyger, Champ and Jacey Pederson. Photo credit: SF Chronicle

It’s a testament to the Pederson family that Champ is not just a cheerleader for his siblings, but also a true champion for himself.

As Champ explained in Player’s Tribune, “Down syndrome — it is not a disease. It doesn’t hold me back, but it is my disability and I know what my disability is. I just try even more. Some people say words about it. Words that are hateful. There is a word, called the r-word, and if anyone ever says that to us, it is really hateful. For some people that don’t know about Down syndrome, it’s about 21 chromosomes — we have an extra chromosome. That extra chromosome makes us special because we touch a lot of people’s hearts.”

Shop Live Like a Champ

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the sports lover in your life – or just someone who wants to make a difference (and isn’t that almost everyone on your list?), visit the Live Like a Champ website and pick out a cool tshirt or hoodie. It’s a gift- like Champ and the Pederson family- that will keep on giving.

everyone on your list would love a Live Like A Champ tshirt this holiday!

everyone on your list would love a Live Like a Champ tshirt this holiday!

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About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.