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North Texas Make-A-Wish "Survivor" creates challenges for the reality show

North Texas Make-A-Wish "Survivor" creates challenges for the reality show
North Texas Make-A-Wish "Survivor" creates challenges for the reality show 02:27

NORTH TEXAS ( - In just two days, Survivor comes back to CBS for its 45th season. 

The reality show is a showcase of courage, determination and strength, but it's not just those in front of the camera who display it.

A North Texas man who embodies the very meaning of "survivor" has become an influence behind the scenes. It's all thanks to Make-A-Wish North Texas.  

Twenty-two-year-old Austin Russell's love of the show Survivor began as a young child. 

"What drew me to the show was not really the strategy and all the little plotting and relationships and stuff like that, it was the challenges," he said. 

In his own life, he had faced his own challenges. At just seven months old, he was diagnosed with a rare condition that limited his brain's ability to grow properly. 

"It was hard because he was so little when we found out about this condition and it's pretty rare," his father Kris Russell said. "It was just always, we had to be so careful with him." 

"It limited me to not be able to do anything extremely physical," Austin said. 

Throughout his childhood, he needed multiple surgeries, but always kept a fighting spirit. At 13, his story caught the attention of Make-A-Wish North Texas. 

"It was a big surprise for me," he said. 

Right away, he knew he wanted to create a challenge for Survivor. He created an elemental obstacle course.

"It really just showed us how creative kids can be," Make-A-Wish North Texas President & CEO Kim Elenez said. "He thought deeply about, 'what do I want, what is meaningful for me,' and he just went for it!" 

"He had this neat concept of what it would look like and now all the sudden it really exists," Kris Russell said. 

"It was a really great moment that I'll always remember," Austin Russell said. 

The producers of the show were so impressed, they asked him to keep creating challenges for future seasons. 

"I don't think it would've been possible for me to make a better wish than the one I did," Austin Russell said. "Looking back, I don't see any other way I could have done it to make me happier than I am now."

As the new season approaches, he's now headed to Los Angeles for the premier. 

"It's going to be amazing to be surrounded by all the people that I've worked with on the show and to just be able to sit down and watch," he said. 

Again, he'll be a part of it but says you'll have to watch to see what happens!

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