Shane C. Lauer, who despite having Duchenne muscular dystrophy competed in races and triathlons aided by the group Athletes Serving Athletes, died May 8 of complications from the disease at his guardian's home in the Phoenix area of Baltimore County.
He was 24.
"Shane was an inspiration beyond words," said David Slomkowski, who founded Athletes Serving Athletes in 2008 and is the organization's executive director. "He was such an incredible person.
"I'm human, so I complain. But my kids are healthy, I have a roof over my head and food on the table, but when you had time to be around Shane, you left feeling uplifted," said Mr. Slomkowski, who lives in Cockeysville. "He helped put your so-called problems in a proper perspective."
"As a person, Shane was an unbelievable kid who was up for anything," said Chip Connor, who competed in three triathlons with Mr. Lauer. "He was an inspiration to so many kids who had disabilities."
Shane Christopher Lauer was born in Baltimore. He was 11 when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative form of muscular dystrophy that results in premature death.
"He was 15 when he moved in with us," said Ben Mortenson, who with his wife, Carissa Mortenson, became Mr. Lauer's legal guardians.
"Even though being dealt a crappy hand of cards with Duchenne — which is a brutal disease — what he accomplished [with] Ben and Carissa, his guardians, helped fill in the gap," said Mr. Slomkowski.
Mr. Lauer was a 2013 graduate of Dulaney High School.
He used a wheelchair, and seven years ago began racing with Athletes Serving Athletes, a nonprofit organization based in Timonium that provides racing venues for competitive athletes with disabilities.
Teams of Athletes Serving Athletes volunteers push wheelchairs, pedal bikes or row rafts with young athletes with disabilities. The volunteers, known as WingMen, train and work with the athletes who cannot compete in marathons or triathlons on their own.
"The whole point of the charity is helping them get involved in competitive racing. Shane was willing to do anything, and some of the races can be dangerous — like when you're strapped to the front of a special bike that's going 30 or 40 mph. But he wanted to do it and really liked it," said Mr. Connor, a former resident of Glen Arm who now lives in Anna Maria, Fla.
"It could be raining with temperatures in the 40s or very hot with temperatures in the 90s, and we'd be out for hours and hours, but Shane wanted to do it," he said. "He loved to be outside with his family and friends and being active. He was tough."
In 2012, when Mr. Lauer participated in the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. National Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa, his team was made up of Mr. Connor, Mr. Slomkowski and Mr. Mortenson.
"Shane never complained, and he was grateful for the things he was able to accomplish. He wanted to be as independent as possible," said Mr. Mortenson.
Mr. Mortenson recalled that when the two participated in a 4-mile race several years ago, Mr. Lauer urged him on.
"With 2 miles to go, Shane kept saying, 'Ben, you need to pick up the speed and pass these people. … I can't move my body, but I can move my mouth!'" said Mr. Mortenson.
"Shane was one of our first athletes to compete in a full marathon while also training to compete in the sport of triathlon," wrote Mr. Slomkowski in an Athletes Serving Athletes tribute announcing Mr. Lauer's death.
"He was the first to race in the ASA bike, first and only ASA athlete to compete in and finish a half and full Iron Man distance triathlon," he wrote. "To my knowledge, Shane is the only athlete living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy ever to finish those distance events."
He competed in races in Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Florida and Iowa, Mr. Slomkowski said.
When he became weak from racing, Mr. Lauer began painting.
"He could use his fingers to hold a pencil. He'd draw first and then come back and paint it," said Mr. Mortenson. "And his paintings became very profound."
"Shane was a ... testament to the fact that no matter what you are going through, you can choose to live a life of abundance. He could have lived in fear all his life, but he chose to live in faith," wrote Mr. Slomkowski in his tribute.
"He could have been bitter and angry, but he chose to be grateful and joyful," he wrote. "He could have laid down and quit many times, but he chose to get up and fight, every day."
Mr. Lauer was a member of Grace Fellowship Church, 9505 Deereco Road, Lutherville, where a memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday.
In addition to his guardians, Mr. Lauer is survived by three sisters, Sophia Mortenson, Morgan Schultz and Jessie Trionfo, all of Baltimore County.