By Steve Crump, Reporter
LOUISVILLE, KY (WBTV) - Turning 18 years old means reaching one of life's major milestones.
It is an age bringing a new sense of identity and a fresh mindset of untested freedom.
Join the military, leave home or starting college are many of the actions coming to mind, but if your name is Chancellor Lee Adams reaching the age of 18 is another important step in a rather complicated journey.
His birthday came on Nov. 16.
Many believed the unfair circumstances he came into the world with would impair Lee, who was to never make it this far. He did.
Born with cerebral palsy and facing a series of physical challenges, his young life exemplifies courage, charisma, character and integrity.
Calling him a survivor is an understatement.
It's hard to believe that 18 years have passed since the violent fatal shooting of his mother Cherica Adams that was orchestrated by Chancellor's father former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth.
Convicted on conspiracy charges, Lee's dad is scheduled to be released next year.
Having been a journalist in Charlotte for more than 30 years, covering this homicide that became a global news flash and spending weeks at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse during the trial, it is a story that resonates deeply.
For a young life that has had its share of visible pitfalls, this young man has demonstrated the impossible.
Therapy allows Lee to show his true colors and what he is made of.
It comes every week on the top of a horse by the name of Rader at Waxhaw, North Carolina's Misty Meadow Stables.
The farm's owner and CNN Hero Harry Swimmer has seen measured progress.
"He can sit up straight now where he couldn't do that before. He's come a long way," Swimmer said.
Lee's passion for horses resulted in a trip to Louisville, Kentucky's Churchill Downs one day before his 18th birthday.
It was a private plane getting him and his grandmother Saundra Adams to the track and the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Lunch in the club house, views from the boxes near the finish line, as well as seeing races near the famous twin spires.
Continued progress though horseback riding has impacted Lee's skills such as mobility and coordination.
John Asher who heads up racing communications at Churchill Downs understands the impact of such meaningful therapy.
"You make that connection with the horse. It seems to uplift both of them," Asher said.
His grandmother describes Lee as a person with the will of a champion.
"He's a fighter," she said. "He's determined. He's a mighty warrior."
Considering he's been viewed as a fighter, it made perfect sense that his trip to Louisville included a visit to the Muhammad Ali Center. That's where he engaged in shadow boxing with an image of the champ and embraced several exhibits. Jeanie Khanke is the center's director of external affairs.
"I do believe that he has Muhammad like qualities and he wants to make a difference in the world, and he will." Khanke told WBTV.
At 18, he's crossing into a river of new found existence.
In making that trip to my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky last week with Lee and his grandmother Saundra, it was easy to discover how his beaming smile projects one of those powerful emotions that lights up a room and makes your heart melt. And if his bright eyes open windows to this young man's soul, then the narrative is clear.
His life offers the insights from the obstacles we see and he faces, but Lee's charming spirit also breaks down the doors to new opportunities for him and others that can and do make a positive difference.