Nancy Szabo is the mother of
Chad Crittenden, a 35-year-old teacher from California who was a contestant on “Survivor:
Vanuatu. ” His leg amputation, which his mom refers to, occurred a few years ago because of
a cancerous tumor.
What was it like watching your son
It took us back at first, seeing Chad’s face in
the commercials and magazines before the first episode. We all got kind of giddy and wanted to see
more of him during each episode. His three-year-old daughter, Clara, was completely unimpressed, but
I don’t think she understood the uniqueness of being
Was he portrayed accurately on
Yes, he can come across as a fairly quiet person at first but
once you get to know him he’s really funny. His close friends find it amusing that anyone
would consider him quiet. He is also extremely creative and inventive. That’s hard to show
What was your biggest concern about Chad being
on the show?
Our biggest concern was how he was going to do with his
leg. I had seen so many “Survivor” competitions involving walking across ropes
or balance beam-type things and I just couldn’t fathom him being competitive in those
events. I was concerned that he might be too hard on himself if he couldn’t
What do you think made Chad’s audition
tape stand out ?
I think the prosthetic leg was a big factor in
him being noticed. In his audition tape, he did some crazy things like taking it off and using it as
a paddle. That had to have caught their eye!
Once Chad knew he
was going to be on“Survivor, ” what preparations did he make for
Chad did a lot of reading about survival skills. He also
worked out and swam a great deal.
What made him want to be on
“Survivor” in the first place?
He saw an ad in the
paper about trying out before the first season ever aired. He talked about it a great deal but we
all thought he was a bit looney. Chad and Dyann (his wife) have been avid fans since the first
season. When Chad was making such good progress coming back after his amputation, he started thinking
in terms of “Survivor”again.
feature a competition where loved ones are invited to participate. If this opportunity had been
presented, would you have done it?
Probably not. I hate being in
front of any camera, and I wouldn’t have been up to the task of eating gross things. John,
my husband, would have been the more likely candidate - he’s pretty athletic and will eat
anything except pot roast.
Since the end of the show, what
hobbies and interests has Chad been pursuing?
He still loves
snowboarding, biking, music, baseball, watching soccer, tennis, etc. His ultimate goal is someday to
return to playing soccer. It’s been a part of his life since first grade and is the one
thing he hasn’t been able to do.
Do you think being
on “Survivor” changed Chad?
“Survivor, ” Chad had
always been an extremely private
person. It’s amazing that he ever considered being on “Survivor” in
the first place. That has changed a bit now, he’s more comfortable with the notoriety.
People recognize him when he’s out in public, which is very strange for him, but he
doesn’t get uptight about it like he would have in the past. Other than that,
he’s the same ol' guy.
Are there any other thoughts
you would like to share about your son’s adventure and your feelings about
Chad gets really annoyed when people refer to him as a hero or
being especially brave in attempting things. He truly feels he has just dealt with what life
has dished out. I think it’s a testament to the role of having a positive attitude and
thinking about the things you can do as opposed to feeling sorry for yourself about what you
There are many amputees coming back from the war now and I
know he would like them to realize that life as they knew it doesn’t have to be over. I
know he also hopes for the two-legged population to be exposed to his abilities and perhaps be less
likely to view amputees with pity.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.