Sports are magical. They bring people together, test our wills and inspire us to become healthier, happier people. Sports also help us to help others. One local athlete exemplifies how getting involved in sports can change not only one life, but many lives. I saw his story on Facebook and want to share it with you.

Thirty-year-old John Smith is director of sports marketing at Duffy’s Sports Grill in Lake Worth. He dabbled in different sports until about a year ago, when he got his first bike. That’s when his love affair with sports began. His first big charity ride was last year’s Dolphins Cycling Challenge, which benefits the Sylvester Cancer Center in Miami.

“It was there that I came face to face with disease. I sat, I prayed, I wondered, what could I do to make some sort of difference?” says Smith, who teaches indoor cycling at Velocity Cycling Studio in downtown West Palm Beach.

Competition doesn’t come easy for Smith, who served in the U.S. military from 2001 to 2004. “While [in the military], I suffered some injuries that left me with what is really half of a normal sinus cavity. You can imagine the struggles I have to handle endurance sports, so that’s why I do them,” he says. “Every race I do has a goal, a purpose, a chance to shed light on something. Even if it only draws the eyes of one competitor or spectator, I feel I did my job … what God has asked me to do.”

Smith started competing in triathlons—going so far as to finish an Ironman event, which is a grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. A recent tragedy has compelled Smith to go the distance, yet again. His inspiration? Mollie Serrano, a Plantation triathlete who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at 40.

“Did I know Mollie? No. But what I do see is a reflection of myself.  A young, inspiring person who had such a love for life—all taken away by a disease that she battled so bravely,” Smith says. “I thought … you have to do something here. … I cried; I prayed. I couldn’t sleep….”

Smith’s next challenge is to do the Ironman Lake Placid in 2014. This time, his mission is to raise money as part of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, which aims to find a cure for multiple myeloma. Smith admits he is just learning about this type of cancer.

“What I have found so far is it is a cancer that affects your plasma cells. These white blood cells are normally responsible for producing antibodies for the body. They can get into your bone marrow or worse cause kidney problems. It is currently treatable but incurable,” he says.

Smith’s goal is to raise $5,000. To help Smith in his cause, click here.

LOCAL HOSPITAL NEWS

• For the eighth consecutive year, West Boca Medical Center has achieved a 5-Star Rating and the Maternity Care Excellence Award from Healthgrades. This designation places the hospital within the top five percent of all hospitals evaluated by Healthgrades, a consumers’ health information resource. West Boca Medical Center (21644 State Road 7) also was recognized for the sixth straight year for the exceptional care provided to mothers (during and after childbirth) and to their newborn children. In addition, West Boca has been awarded with the Gynecologic Surgery Excellence Award for the second year in a row from Healthgrades. For more information, call 866-904-9262.

Boca Raton Regional Hospital has been cited as a top-ranked regional hospital in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013-2014 annual listing of America’s Best Hospitals. Boca Regional is ranked 21st in Florida and ninth in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area. U.S. News also rated Boca Regional a high-performing hospital in Gastroenterology/Gastrointestinal Surgery and Gynecology. The 24th annual edition of Best Hospitals showcases fewer than 750 of the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals.

Boca Raton Regional (800 Meadows Road) also is the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence for the ninth year in a row and was named one of America’s 50 Best Hospital in 2011, 2012 and 2013, both by Healthgrades. Call 561/955-7100 for more information.