The Buffalo Scholarship
Levi’s Legacy is proud to offer a $1,000 scholarship to two heart warriors pursuing higher education.
This scholarship seeks to support a heart warrior as they continue on their education journey.
Any high school senior born with a congenital heart defect may apply to this scholarship opportunity.
To apply, please tell us about how you have charged the storm in life and what impact having a CHD has had on your life.
Applications are due by July 15th, 2023
Please note, the form on this page does not save your progress. We recommend typing your essay in another program and then submitting once it is complete.
- High School Senior
- Born with a CHD
2023 Buffalo Scholarship Winners
One out of every 3,841 people are born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and I, Dylan Murray Smith, am one of them. It has been a bumpy road at times, but I have learned to adapt to a different lifestyle and live my life to the best of my ability. Life and learning have always been a challenge. Three open heart surgeries and a stroke, by the age of 6, made for a tougher than most childhood. Regardless of these challenges, like Levi, I was born a buffalo too and never gave up! As early as I can remember, I knew that I wanted to be treated like any other kid and I didn’t want to be looked at differently due to my heart defect. Whenever my friends would go out and play in the woods, climb the jungle gym, ride bikes and play various different sports, I was right there with them. Nothing stopped me, well besides my mom on occasion. I had been told by doctors that my heart was going to challenge me and at times hold me back, but quite frankly I didn’t care. At an early age when I was playing with my friends, whether it was baseball, basketball or running my first and only 5K at 7 years old, I could tell what my body was capable of and what it was not. I recognized that I did not have the stamina like everyone else, but that did not stop me from participating and doing the best I could. I would come home with scraped knees and grass stains everywhere and panting to catch my breath, my mom would always say “You just don’t let anything stop you huh”. This mindset has followed me into my teenage years and will help shape my future. Nothing really did stop me until my friends started playing organized contact sports like football and hockey that I was unable to play. Thankfully, my Grandfather had the wisdom to introduce me to the game he loved, golf. Once I started to understand golf I would play anytime I could, striving to always get better. Although I might not have been able to play contact sports, I did find a sport I could do for the long term. I played on the high school golf team for 3 years and still enjoy playing whenever I can.
Learning is also an area that has not come easy to me. In middle school, I found out I was reading 4 grade levels behind my classmates. I can still remember what I said to myself when I found out, “wow is that embarrassing.” At that time I was diagnosed with expressive and receptive learning disabilities along with dyslexia and executive functioning disorder. I needed to change schools in 7th grade to be in a small language based classroom and was part of a reading program. At this time I began to realize that I didn’t want to be part of the small group classes. I wanted to be more independent and was willing to work after school with a tutor to bridge the gaps and learn more strategies to help me succeed. In high school I worked hard to find my stride. I was reading at grade level and felt amazing, but I still needed to leave the regular classroom for academic support and some classes which was difficult because I didn’t want to leave my friends. In between practices and games I continued to work with my tutor and learned to manage my time and prioritize what I needed to. I set a goal to be in all general education classrooms without academic support, to do this I needed to advocate for myself. I proactively talked to my teachers, emailed them, and asked for extra help to push myself to reach my goal.
Half way through my Junior year I had my three-year IEP reevaluation and the feedback proved I had closed the gap, I no longer needed an IEP. I was proud that I accomplished my goal. Achieving this goal, and so many milestones along the way, brings me so much joy and pride. I had proven, to myself most importantly, but also to my parents and teachers, that I could succeed socially, athletically, and academically. I have built a profile for myself that includes a long term job where I need to multitask, I am becoming more responsible, expanding my social group, and setting new goals every day. My next challenge ahead is college. I know it will not be an easy road either, but I have the confidence that what I set my mind to I will accomplish. That is how I charged the storm and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but ourselves,” this infamous line taken from Julius Caesar, was written by William Shakespeare. This simple statement has an unlimited number of widely varying interpretations and/or meanings. But for me, I comprehend it as, life is about how we react to tough situations that we will face throughout our lives.
As far back as I can remember I have always had a dream of playing in the NBA, as a point guard. At that time, the Thunder was the “hot” team with the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Through the eyes of a small child, that also played point guard, Westbrook was a realistic idol. In the terms of realistic idol, to me this meant Westbrooks 6’1” height was acceptable compared to many other players that measured closer to 7 feet tall. Over time, I did realize the percentage of athletes that are able to play in the NBA is very small. Especially to someone that went to a Class B school and probably would not ever measure over 6 feet. However, this didn’t completely discourage me. I still had high hopes of playing basketball at the next level, which would be collegiately. This dream/goal helped me realize that hard work and dedication was a must in achieving any future basketball goals. I have used this mindset in my day-to-day life for as long as I can remember, whether it be during school academics or playing sports.
In January of my eighth-grade year, I had an unexpected health scare that threw me a curve ball for the rest of the school year. During our basketball winter workouts, I began having trouble catching my breath, dizzy and even passed out a few times. Over the next several weeks of doctor visits, I was finally referred to OU Children’s hospital. During my first visit it was determined immediately that I had a severe heart condition, aka “cardiac anomaly”, that required open heart surgery immediately. I clearly remember thinking, 1.) Am I going to die and 2.) Will I ever play sports again? During this time, I was experiencing a whirlwind of emotions and at times I let fear take over my life. To me, I was just a normal kid, but apparently God made me just a little different. My wonderful team of doctors and nurses did an amazing job and were able to fix my heart issue using the “unroofing” procedure. After a lot of hard work in rehab, in August of that year, I was completely released to play sports again. A few of the most important things I learned or realized during rehab was 1.) I am alive and 2.) God has bigger plans for me. During my time of rehabbing, I was able to still attend practices, games and workouts. Normally, I would have been in the middle of running the plays called by our coach. But, I found myself at peace being a part of the team from the sidelines. I made it a goal to encourage every single player that stepped foot on the field or court every single day. Unfortunately, I also realized that playing sports past my high school career was out of the question. Even though I am better, I could probably never pass their physicals. I am proud to say that my passion for sports has not changed and I was named the 2021-2022 Basketball and Baseball Offensive Player of the Year and the 2022-2023 Basketball and Baseball MVP.
Without question, I have benefited greatly from being a member of the small rural agricultural community of Alex, Oklahoma. I feel extremely blessed to be able to attend a school, church and community that values everyone no matter what your age, race or beliefs are. I have been taught and given the tools needed to take advantage of every opportunity and challenge that I have been presented with. It is no secret that I am extremely passionate about sports, the agricultural community and my Native American heritage. While all three are very different from one another, I have always given 100% effort while involved and representing them. The work ethic and determination I have gained from growing up on a farm has been used to help drive me to being a more effective football, basketball and baseball player. My Cherokee heritage has taught me to be a compassionate, forgiving and determined person that wants to always do the right thing and be a voice for those that have not found theirs yet.
After high school graduation this spring, I intend on attending Oklahoma State University studying Animal Science with a Business/Pre-Law Option. Through my studies, my heritage and my background of being a 4th generation rural Oklahoma cow-calf operator, I hope to learn more about the legal aspects of the agricultural industry. I hope to take this knowledge, once I’ve graduated with my bachelors degree, and apply to Law School. My goal is to become an agricultural lawyer and advocate for Oklahoma and all agriculturist in the United States to help insure we are making the best decisions for everyone today and for our future. Any assistance received from your scholarship will be greatly appreciated and will help make my dream become a reality.