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
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).
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.
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…”
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 for the perfect holiday gift
So this holiday, if you’re looking for the perfect holiday 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.