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Lethbridge man with autism channels inner ‘Champion’ on stage with Carrie Underwood

Click to play video 'Lethbridge man with autism channels his inner ‘champion’ on stage with Carrie Underwood' Lethbridge man with autism channels his inner ‘champion’ on stage with Carrie Underwood
A young Lethbridge man living with autism became the “champion” of a Carrie Underwood concert in Edmonton last week after she invited him on stage to sing a hit song with her. Demi Knight has more – Jun 4, 2019

Tristan Surmik, 22, has overcome a lot in his life. After being diagnosed with autism, Tristan was non-verbal for several years before undergoing 18 months of speech therapy at the age of three. He hasn’t let any of the hurdles hold him back.

“I’ve changed a lot from when I was younger,” Tristan said.

“There’s still things that I need to work on, but I’ve overcome a lot.”

READ MORE: Raising awareness and knowledge on World Autism Awareness Day

On May 28, during a Carrie Underwood concert in Edmonton, Tristan was able to show the world exactly what he’s capable of.

He joined the singer on the stage.

“Stage fright, his anxiety, stress, all that kind of stuff, it’s a hard thing to get up in front of thousands of people and sing.

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“He’s never done it so he overcome all those… I was just proud of him,” said Tristan’s sister, Mikayla Surmik.

As part of a contest, Tristan wrote a letter to Underwood which highlighted the struggles he’s faced growing up. Through that, he won the opportunity to join her on stage for a song that speaks so truly to who he is: a champion.

Tristan said he’s been a fan on Underwood for years, since her American Idol days, and he couldn’t believe his luck when he was announced the winner of the once-in-a-lifetime competition.

READ MORE: Autism Aviators, a program to help make travel more accessible, takes off

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Tristan said.

“I had a couple of moves planned but I didn’t get to use them because I was really nervous,” he laughed. “But I did one planned move and that was when we were shoulder to shoulder.”

Mikayla watched proudly from the sidelines, with just a hint of playful jealousy.

“It was pretty cool,” she said. “I was jealous but I was happy for him.”

“I was supposed to point at her and say that’s my sister but I forgot,” Tristan said. “I had a lot of things running through my head at that point.”

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While Tristan is on his way to a Political Science degree with hopes of becoming a lawyer, he says he wants to achieve a lot in his life and believes this moment was a monumental stepping stone for more great things to come.

“I know I probably wouldn’t have done this even six months ago, or even a year ago, but I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone and do new things.

“It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done and I’m glad I did it because now I know I can do more.”