"The events in my life have taught me patience, acceptance of others and to enjoy the little things," said Donnellan. "I could not have accomplished this without the love and support of my friends and family."
Donnellan started gymnastics at the Gymnastics World Center in Arizona at the age of 10. It was immediately apparent that he showed great talent and moved from classes to team in an extremely short time. His progress was faster then most boys his age and he became one of the best gymnasts in Arizona by the age of 14, attending back-to-back JO National Championships.
Then on May 12, 2006, Donnellan suffered a catastrophic injury. He over-rotated on a single front flip on floor exercise, fractured two vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord. The accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Donnellan showed his true character after the accident by accepting his challenge and pushing himself to continue a normal life. Not only did he graduate with his high school class on time, but also further challenged himself by enrolling at the University of Arizona where he studied media arts. Donnellan went on to complete his degree in four years and, as fate would have it, graduated with his degree on the six-year anniversary of his accident.
"The athletes council selected Andrew for the Robert Miller Sprit Of the Flame award because, as any competitive athlete notes, it is always incredibly tough to get back up after suffering a serious injury. It is even tougher to handle a career-ending injury," said Athlete Council member Karl Heger. "Andrew had the worst-case scenario and required an inner strength that proved that he has the true heart of a champion."
Founded in 1987, the Robert Miller Spirit of the Flame Award recognizes athletes and individuals in the gymnastics world who demonstrate leadership, strength and determination in an extraordinary way. The award was renamed in 2011 after Staff Sargent Robert Miller, who received the Medal of Honor after saving fellow soldiers during a 2008 ambush in Afghanistan.