ST. PARIS – The Graham High School Dancin’ Band From Falconland has a new friend.
Band members have begun including Graham student Christian Nichols in their performances by acknowledging him with “fist bumps” and more.
Christian Nichols, 16, has Angelman Syndrome, autism and epilepsy. Angelman Syndrome is a rare neuro-genetic disorder that occurs in one of 15,000 live births, according to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation website (www.angelman.org). Characteristics of the disorder include developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures and walking and balance disorders.
Christian loves watching the band perform, and tuba player Colt Woodruff noticed his enthusiasm.
“He is always out there every Friday night. You always hear him, even on the field. He’s the band’s biggest fan,” Colt said. “I wanted to show him the same support as he does the band.”
One day a few weeks ago, Colt walked near Christian’s wheelchair and gave him that first fist bump. Since then, Colt has been visiting Christian in class and at lunch.
“The first game, he was at the game and trying to reach out and grab my tuba. I thought it was cool, so I reached over and fist bumped him. There wasn’t much effort and it seemed like a good thing to do,” Colt said. “You can definitely tell he loves seeing the band and asks for more by signing ‘music’ and ‘more.’ He loves music and wants to be associated with the band, so we wanted to make him feel like he is part of the band.”
Colt is the son of Sarah Lyon. Christian is the son of Brandon and Sarah Nichols.
Other students followed Colt’s example, and the rest of the Graham band began including him with their own fist bumps.
At the school’s Oct. 7 Homecoming game, Christian and Colt were gifted matching “100 percent Graham Band” T-shirts that say “Tuba: noun, God’s gift to the marching band” on back. Christian wore his to the the pep rally and Homecoming game. The shirt was made by Kimberly Bowman Brown and St. Paris Embroidery.
At the pep rally, Christian sat with the band and was asked to sit at the 50-yard line during the halftime show at the game by Band Director Justin Cooper. At the game, Christian got another treat.
“Christian got to be completely surrounded by one of the most incredible groups of young adults I’ve ever met,” Sarah Nichols said. “There were fist bumps and ‘Hi Christian’ coming from every direction.”
At the end of the game, band members and alumni danced around Christian and gave him fist bumps.
“Being able to see the joy on his face means the world to a parent of a child that cannot speak,” Sarah Nichols said.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.