Rev. Robert E. Streater, M.A.
Class of 1977
Here is his story:
He's an ambassador for overcoming obstacles
A doctor told Robert Streater he would be unable to walk
By Sharon Kant-Rauch â€¢ DEMOCRAT FAITH EDITOR â€¢ September 6, 2008
When the fire started licking the legs of 8-year-old Robert Streater as he lay
in a pile of leaves, his first thought was to cry out to God, "Lord Jesus,
He would need that help in the days ahead â€” after a doctor told him he would
never walk again, through the nights of intense pain and skin grafts, and during
his year-and-a-half stay in the hospital and two years in braces.
He eventually learned to walk, then run, and finally, to race in high school
Today at 49, Streater, who still runs 10 miles a day, feels God not only saw
him through this trial, but has used the tragedy for a higher purpose: to
motivate him to help others who suffer from a disability.
This passion led him to be selected recently as an Inclusion Ambassador for the
Florida Development Disabilities Council (FDDC). As one of seven state
ambassadors, he'll lead a grass-roots effort to advocate for services and
funding for people with disabilities.
His selection doesn't surprise Beth Williams, who works for the Miccosukee
chapter of the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System, which provides
support for exceptional students.
"He's always reaching out, always available to families, always so
positive," Williams said. "He's a giver."
FDDC director Debra Dowds, who recently met Streater at a legislative training
"He's very eloquent," she said, "very enthusiastic."
After telling his story during a recent interview, Streater suddenly became
choked up with emotion and dropped his head onto his arm on the table before
"My passion," he said a few moments later, looking up and wiping the
tears from his eyes, "is to go back to the burn centers and talk to the
burn survivors and the parents and tell them not to give up hope."
Malverna Streater, Robert's wife of 21 years and mother of their three
boys, said life could have turned out differently for her husband.
"He could be in a wheelchair, or lost his life because of an
infection," she said.
"Every time he laces up his sneakers and looks at those scars, he
appreciates how he has been blessed."
Streater grew up poor in Richmond, Va. , the son of a teenage mother. They lived
in a home without running water.
For recreation, he and the other kids in the neighborhood would rake up piles
of leaves and play in them.
One day his uncle, who didn't know Streater was beneath the leaves, threw
gasoline on the pile and lit a match.
There was an explosion. Streater thought he was going to die.
He doesn't remember much about the ambulance ride, except that the
paramedic told the driver to hurry. Streater was about to go into shock.
The next morning when he awoke, his legs were bandaged and his family was
surrounding his bed.
When the doctor came in, he told Streater that he probably would never walk
again â€” his legs were not only burned, they were bent.
Streater looked him in the eye and said, "I'm going to walk
The doctor said, "OK, young man," and then laid out a long, rigorous
plan to get him mobile, which included numerous surgeries, daily physical
therapy and time in a wheelchair and braces.
What helped him the most, he said, was a nurse he saw almost every day.
She'd tell him that he needed to take the 't out of can't.
Later, he would have a home tutor â€” another "angel" â€” who pushed
"You're going to college," she told him.
By the time he was a freshman in high school, he was back in the classroom and
Although Streater was embarrassed about the scars on his legs, a track coach
talked him into running around the track three times one day. He missed the
school record by three seconds.
"You're on the team," the coach told him.
Streater later would run in both college and the military. He'd work as a
broadcaster at a Christian radio station and become an ordained minister. After
moving to Tallahassee 10 years ago, he became a motivational speaker and family
One project he and Malverna are working on now is starting Encouragement House,
a faith-based family outreach program for people needing emotional and spiritual
In his role as ambassador, he also plans to lobby the Legislature for early
intervention funding for disabled infants and toddlers and job training for
those who are older. In the spring, he also hopes to sponsor a 5K run for
fathers, particularly those who have a disabled child.
Whatever arena he's in, Streater is no longer ashamed of his scars. He
lifts his pant legs to show children the evidence of his ordeal. He runs through
the streets of Tallahassee in shorts. He thinks his story may encourage others
who are suffering.
"The race is not given to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,"
he said, quoting Scripture. "It's given to those who endure."
Streater said his race isn't finished. He's still running. He's
And he wants to share that journey.
Robert E. Streater, III M.A. was recently named "Inclusion
Ambassador" by the Florida Development Disabilities Council. (Glenn
Beil/Democrat)Team Streater website: www.teamstreater.com
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