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Lessons of loss

Houghton and his wife reside in Burnt Hills with their four children. There, he coaches Little League baseball, teaching kids not the value of winning at all costs, but of enjoying life and the moment.

"I've tried to turn that energy I've gained from those different experiences into being a role model for kids," he said.

The advice he gives them?

"Don't worry so much about winning and losing," said Houghton. "Life and death is a lot more important than a lot of the things we get stressed and worried about."

He also plays the part of Sammie Baseball, a mascot for the Valley Cats. He uses the costume to not only entertain youngsters at games, but to inject positive messages about doing well in school and kindness.

The Embrace Life Award came with a $10,000 cash prize attached. Houghton has used some of that in upgrading his home, given to the WGY telethon for the Children's Hospital at Albany Medical Center and plans to give to the Special Olympics, which his brother is involved in.

The most important thing that Houghton has learned from his experiences, though, is to make sure that you're at peace with those important to you.

"It's about putting your life in order so you can have your children, your spouse, your family members be OK after you leave," he said. "I make it important to let people know how I feel about them."

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