‘Hey buddy. What’s your name?’ HK Derryberry to speak in Hardin Valley

Kelly NorrellWest Knox

On Nov. 4 and 5, Hardin Valley Church of Christ will host inspirational speakers HK Derryberry, 27, severely disabled but with a prodigy-like memory, and Jim Bradford, 74, his mentor.

“The Awakening of HK Derryberry” won a 2017 Audie award.

They will speak at a Breakfast of Champions Saturday, Nov. 4, 8:30-10:30 a.m., and a “Day to Remember” service Sunday, Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. Pre-registration at http://hvcoc.org/ is required for the breakfast. Both events are free and open to the public.

Derryberry and Bradford of Nashville give talks across the U.S., including an appearance on the “Inspiring America” segment of “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” last February. Their book, “The Awakening of HK Derryberry, My Unlikely Friendship with the Boy Who Remembers Everything,” won a 2017 Audie award.

“They have an amazing story to tell. Everyone needs a champion,” said Larry Cline, minister of Hardin Valley Church of Christ.

“That is what I want people to see – how your faith translates over to being a champion for others.”

Their story began Oct. 17, 1999, at a fast food restaurant, when Bradford, then 56, spied a little boy sitting alone. His hair mussed, his tee shirt dirty, and his legs in braces, the boy was bent over a boom box.

Bradford learned that the boy, 9, and blind with cerebral palsy, often spent whole days in the restaurant because his grandmother, a cashier, couldn’t afford childcare. Bradford approached him.

“Hey, buddy,” he said. “What’s your name?”

HK Derryberry, who was 9 when he met Jim Bradford, is now 27.

“HK Derryberry,” came the answer.

A relationship began that seemed planned by God.

Born three months premature after his mother died in an auto accident, and abandoned by his father when he was five, HK was raised by his grandmother, Pearl Derryberry. He attended the Tennessee School for the Blind, but his disabilities seemed overwhelming.

Bradford changed things. He took the boy on outings and a regular Boys’ Night. When he and his wife, Brenda, began keeping HK on weekends and taking him to church, they discovered his rare and uncanny memory for events in his life from about age 4.  Doctors call it “highly superior autobiographical memory” (hyperthymesia).

He can calculate dates with high accuracy. If you tell him the date you were born, he can tell you the day of the week and events around it. He always tells people, “You don’t look a day over 18!”

HK bubbles over with enthusiasm and joy — to be at church, meet new people, snow ski, co-pilot a plane, and ride a horse. He disarms his audiences with his message of hope. “Lovely, lovely, lovely!” is his favorite expression.

Jim Bradford and HK Derryberry

Bradford said anything in life is possible if you never give up.

He hopes to build HK’s security through his appearances. “Everything HK earns goes into a trust fund. I hope to build it up so that he can live comfortably for the rest of his life,” he said.

He asks audiences, “Who’s your HK? You can reach out to other people in need and impact two lives – theirs and yours.

“Just reach out. Say ‘Hey, buddy. What’s your name?’”

Hardin Valley Church of Christ is located at 11515 Hardin Valley Road.

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