From the moment he took the stage Monday evening, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow electrified the hometown crowd with words of hope, perseverance and selflessness.

he Jacksonville native was greeted by applause at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts where he spoke as part of the Florida Forum speaker series.

Throughout the event, which raises funds and awareness for Wolfson Children’s Hospital, the former Florida Gators quarterback shared stories about formative moments in his life in the hopes of inspiring the audience to look past their own desires and recognize the needs of others.

Perhaps no anecdote summed that message up better than his chance meeting with Sherwin, a disabled child he encountered while on a mission trip to the Philippines over a decade ago. While the rest of the boy’s village crowded the missionaries and angled to get closer to them, Sherwin and two friends retreated to a bamboo hut on the outskirts.

ebow followed and soon learned why: The boys’ principal wanted to impress the American visitors, and Sherwin, whose twisted limbs left him hobbled and unable to walk, was viewed as “cursed” and a source of shame. But instead of shunning Sherwin as others had, Tebow lifted him up and embraced him. Soon, he said, the natives followed his lead.

It was during that trip that Tebow said he realized he wanted to be a champion not only on the field, but off of it as well. “What I wanted to do with my life was fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. What I wanted to do with my life was fight for people like Sherwin,” he said.

That visit, he said, inspired the mission statement of the Tim Tebow Foundation — to bring faith, hope and love to those in need of a brighter day in their darkest hour of need — which raises money for children’s causes.

As the night wore on, Tebow rattled off a series of lessons he gleaned from his experiences, but his message, one imparted by his father, never wavered: Love God and love other people.

“So many times in life we get caught up with what we think is the biggest thing,” he said. “… What’s amazing is if we stop looking inward, we start seeing the needs and hurts of other people and if we try our best to fulfill those, that will truly fulfill us in life.”

Read more on the Florida Times-Union.