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Special Olympics athlete Cindy Bentley to be honored with award

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Cindy Bentley calls herself a fighter who never says "I can't." She's also a champion Special Olympics athlete -- and FOX6's Tom Pipines learned she is also a living miracle.

Bentley is a Special Olympics athlete who has been decorated with medals around the world -- and has met two United States presidents.

Bentley is the subject of an inspirational book called Cindy Bentley - Heart of a Champion. It chronicles a life that doctors didn't think would last more than one day.

Bentley didn't die, but her mother's drug and alcohol abuse left Bentley with an intellectual disability.

Bentley's mother eventually went to prison, and Bentley lived in many different foster homes. In one of them, her foster mother was so angry that she lit Bentley's shirt on fire.

Bentley suffered third degree burns, and almost died again.

Six months and nine surgeries later, she left the hospital.

Bentley spent much of her childhood at the Southern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled. No one expected her to learn the skills necessary to live on her own. To everyone's surprise, including her own, she did that and much more.

With the encouragement of a teacher at Southern Center, Cindy realized she had a deep passion for sports, and the discipline to train and compete. She began participating in Special Olympics -- something she feels helped to save her life.

It took a long time, but Bentley has found love, and she's giving it back via her life that is filled with purpose and popularity!

With the help of Life Navigators -- a group whose mission is to help persons with disabilities live active and fulfilling lives in the community, Bentley has her own apartment and a job, and in September, she'll have another award.

Life Navigators will honor Bentley with the Life Navigators 2013 Challenger Honoree Award.

According to the Life Navigators website, "Bentley is being honored for her leadership and dedication to our community.  Each day, Cindy wakes up happy to be alive and living her life with purpose.  It is significant that Cindy is the first individual with an intellectual disability to receive the award.  It is appropriate that she be honored, because she exemplifies Life Navigators philosophy of encouraging individuals with disabilities to be active and connected."

Bentley will receive her award on Monday, September 23, 2013 at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club. The Challenger Event features an afternoon of golf followed by dinner, a program and auction.

In addition to everything else she has overcome, Bentley is also a cancer survivor.

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