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Hartselle Enquirer

SNAP’s worthy namesake

John Mark Stallings’ name has continued to live on still more than two years after his death.
The son of legendary Alabama coach Gene Stallings, John Mark was easily one of the most recognized figures around the state until he died in 2008.
John Mark was born with Down Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes delays in physical and intellectual development.
Gene Stallings was in Decatur Monday to speak at a luncheon to benefit the John Mark Stallings Special Needs Accessible Playground of Morgan County located in Hartselle.
“This playground for special needs children would be very dear to him,” Stallings said. “The RISE program in Tuscaloosa is named after him and he just got a real joy out of seeing the children enjoy themselves.”
Since his death, a long list of facilities and programs have been named for John Mark Stallings, including the equipment room at the University of Alabama and the playing field at Faulkner University.
A high school in Knoxville, Tenn. – right in the center of Vols faithful – named their training room for Stallings’ son.
The list is a source of pride to the father, but a strong example of John Mark’s legacy.
“He was such a joy. never thought badly about anybody,” Stallings said. “Johnny loved every player, trainer, equipment manager and coach. He knew everyone of them. He was just as kind to the janitor as he was the president of the university.”
When John Mark was born, the Stallings’ were told that their son would never live to the age of 4. Later, they told him he would never live past 11.
“What a difference Johnny had made in their lives and the way that they perceived children with special needs,” Stallings said. “He definitely made his little niche. He was a special person.”
And that’s what makes the SNAP playground so special to Gene Stallings.
“This playground gives these children the opportunity to laugh and do something that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” he said. “We need to support this project for no other reason than that it’s the right thing to do.”

Sports editor Todd Thompson can be reached at 773-6566 or at todd.thompson@hartselleenquirer.com

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