Gridiron Heroes

A son’s compassion for helping other injured athletes motivates a father to establish a foundation that continues to thrive.

American football goal post in an outdoor sports stadium (Storyblocks/S, For KSAT use only)

SAN ANTONIO, TX – “We cheer these young men on the football field. Let’s make sure we don’t forget them now.”

Those are the words Eddie Canales said as he accepted his CNN Heroes award in 2011 from Kurt Warner. Eddie Canales was recognized for his extraordinary contribution to helping young athletes who sustained a spinal cord injury while playing high school football.

Canales created the nonprofit, Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation, along with his son, Chris, after Chris suffered a spinal cord injury while making a touchdown-saving tackle during a 2001 game.

“Every day is a fight for your life,” Chris said.

He knows the depression, despair, and ongoing struggles of being paralyzed but Eddie and Chris have a warrior’s spirit, and they choose to never leave a man behind.

For nearly 20 years, the father and son have carried the hero’s creed.

Gridiron Heroes — the San Antonio-based charitable organization — establishes fellowship and support among parents and loved ones who have embraced the calling of becoming full-time caregivers. Bringing hope to the young men who now face a life-altering experience.

Eddie and Chris understand the sacrifices and battles that come with spinal cord injuries.

“We want them to know they are not going through this alone; they are not forgotten, “Eddie Canales said.

From surgery to medication, the first 100 days following a spinal cord injury place a substantial grip on a family’s finances. The expenses that are devoted toward a lifetime of rehabilitation and care will exceed more than $500 thousand dollars.

Gridiron Heroes relies on contributions and fundraising to help families. Since 2003, the foundation has supplied 15 wheelchair-accessible vans to hero athletes and their families.

The vehicles allow the heroes and their families the benefit of traveling, a freedom that a spinal cord injury can take away.

Eddie explains when these young men are gifted their vehicles, their first destination is usually a simple one.

“When we ask them what they’re going to do first, it’s as simple as their favorite restaurant,” Eddie Canales said.

KSAT Community is honored to support the Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Foundation and spotlight the Canales’ determination and selflessness to help others succeed.

Gridiron Heroes is a recipient of parts of the proceeds of the inaugural KSAT Pigskin Classic.

Get Involved

To support and to learn more about the Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation visit: girdironheroes.org.


KSAT Community operates in partnership with University Health, Energy Transfer and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union. Click here to read about other KSAT Community efforts.


About the Author:

Stephanie Leonard is the Special Events Coordinator for KSAT Community. She enjoys writing and producing video and digital content.