By Rick Lewis
Photos by Evelyn Adams
Christopher Alexander possesses an infectious happiness. It is not a quiet, smoldering contentment one could hold in his palm. It is a great bonfire of joy that casts its warmth on all in his presence, radiating from person to person like brilliant rays of light shone through a gemstone. In his own words, he’s “contagious.” He wears a seemingly permanent smile on his face at all times, and his baby pictures provide historical proof. Truly, he has a lot to be happy about.
Christopher is an avid cyclist, a drummer, a disc-jockey (under the moniker DJ Tophy Toph), a rising senior at Mountain Brook High School, and, oh yeah, he’s also a Special Olympian with seven medals to his name.
“I do it all,” he says.
This past June, after months of “super hard” training and years of hard work, Christopher participated in his first national Special Olympics event at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando—a grand culmination of ten years of determination and perseverance. After a 2019 qualification run in the 800m (and a COVID-related pause), he ran the 400m and 800m events and threw the mini-javelin in Orlando, placing fourth in the nation for his performance in the 800m and sixth in the 400m.
His path to the USA Games–as Alabama’s youngest delegate–started a decade ago, at only eight years of age, running in a local Special Olympics event that his mom, Lisa, remembers well.
“He hit the track and took off, and we were like, ‘oh, my gosh,” she says. “He came across the finish line and just kept running.”
However, Christopher, also known as ‘Two-Lap Cap’ (a rearrangement of his initials and a nod to his track specialty), has never really been one to stay put.
“Ever since he could walk, TV wasn’t his thing, Xbox wasn’t his thing, none of that,” his dad, Chris, recalls. “He loved to go outside.”
Whether he was exploring the neighborhood or making new friends with people nearby, Christopher was always on the move, unable to sit still and always looking for a new person to interact with. “I like to be out and about,” he explains.
It wasn’t long before he found running as the perfect way to see more and cover greater ground, and he’s been running ever since. In fact, a few years ago, his family moved close enough to the high school for him to have easy access to the track–his home away from home.
This summer’s USA Games presented Christopher with not only a unique opportunity to represent the state as Alabama’s only 800m runner, but also to travel with the delegation to the event and stay in the athlete’s village. This is the first time he’d done so away from family, all of whom went down to Orlando to see him compete. For Christopher, it was a chance to build friendships with other athletes from around the country; an idea his dad shares.
“These kids like to be a part of something, part of a team, and that’s what the Special Olympics gives,” Chris says. “So, it’s kind of a ‘hit you in the feels thing’ when we go see him. I always tell people you should go to at least one of these events, even if it’s a local event, because it will change your life.”
Special Olympics aside, however, Christopher himself seems to command the ability to change lives. He’s a consummate people person—“I enjoy people,” he says—and his presence imbues a room with an effortless sense of joy.
“He’s therapeutic, in a way, because he has a spirit and a smile about him,” Chris says.
It’s his cheery disposition, paired with a rare attentiveness, that people find so striking. “When you’re with Christopher, he’s present,” Lisa explains. “We’re distracted with lots of things in our lives. All of us are so busy. But Christopher’s really not—he’s blessed with the ability to truly be present. He doesn’t place judgment, he doesn’t see any differences in people. He just finds things to make him happy and make others happy at the same time.”
Whether he is helping Wilbur, who is Mountain Brook High School’s gate guard, direct traffic during eighth period, or assisting a team from Alabama Power to install a new pole (after volunteering in the installation of a neighbor’s transformer, Christopher built a friendship with a few of their crews and has even caravanned in his four-wheeler along with the bucket trucks to a jobsite), Christopher finds ways to get involved, make a difference and brighten someone’s day. The community recognizes it, too.
“People just love him. He’s the mayor of Mountain Brook,” family friend Jennifer Jones says. “It shows up on my phone when he calls me: Christopher Alexander, mayor of Mountain Brook. That’s what he’s like. Everybody knows him.”
Naturally, as a Special Olympian, Christopher gets a lot of press, but his daily dedication to finding happiness and building a sense of pride in Mountain Brook is what really makes him the well-loved figure he is to people. Always cheering on the Spartans at the front of the stands, Christopher never falters in his support of others, and the community has often been there to cheer him on as well.
“They often say it takes a village to raise a child,” Lisa says. “I feel like a lot of support from family and friends in the community makes a difference in his life. I also think it works really more the other way. I think Christopher probably makes a bigger difference in other people’s lives and impacts them and this community in a way that’s been very special. I’m a lucky mom.”
Christopher’s older sister, Anna Rose, who is a rising senior nursing student at Auburn and her brother’s biggest fan, echoed the same sentiment.
“When I’m at school, we FaceTime all the time. So, I’ve gotten to see him get through high school and make new friends and then find all these different things he loves to do. But as much as I look out for Chris, he’s done so much for me. From growing up to everything I’ve been through, he’s always been there to make me smile.”
Which gets to the point of Christopher’s secret sauce, his key to success, his ultimate recommendation for anyone trying to live more fully: “smiling.” He smiles at the kitchen table, at school and on the job. He smiles when talking about the Auburn Eagles program he’ll attend this summer and the trip he and his mom are taking to Italy. He smiles when showing off his four-wheeler, his drums, his Olympic medals and his Alabama Power hat. And, yes, he even smiles when he’s running.