This week’s article contains very few of my own words. On Saturday afternoon I read the following Facebook post by Stacey Sanchez, who wrote eloquently and clearly from her heart:
One of the most amazing things happened to my son and I last night at the Triad and Fairbanks high school football game.
My son and I were at the game waiting to watch my oldest son play in the Triad marching band halftime show. We watched the first and second quarter as the opposing team was dominating the field. My son was having a great time either way. You see, my youngest son has Phelan McDermid Syndrome. This is a rare chromosome deletion that only affects 1400 cases in the entire world. He doesn’t understand this team vs. that team. He doesn’t understand how the game is played. He’s just there in the moment making noises, flapping his arms, and clapping anytime someone else does.
The second quarter was over, and the halftime show was about to begin. The other team was making their way up the ramp to go to the locker room; and my son, who was sitting in his wheelchair, was holding his hands out to give the players high-fives. As they walked past him, it seemed as no one noticed, but they did. One young man in particular came around to the front of his wheelchair and said, “Were you trying to give me a high-five, Buddy?” I said to him, “Yes, he was.” The young man put out his hand for my son to give him a high–five, and he did! I told the young man, “Thank you,” with tears in my eyes. I watched my son flap his arms in excitement and bounce his legs. He was so happy, and I was so proud.
Only a few moments later the coach of the team came over and crouched down to speak to my son. “Hi, what’s your name?” he said. “It’s Dylan,” I said. My son doesn’t speak. He asked, “Do you like football, Dylan?” “He likes football, but he loves watching his brother. He plays in the Triad band,” I said. “That’s great! Dylan, you look like you are having a great time.” I told him I wanted to thank that young man for taking the time to give my son a high-five. That meant the world to me. I couldn’t hold back tears. The coach then explained to me that he works with others affected by autism. I let him know how wonderful he and that young man were, and I appreciated the time he took from being in the huddle to talk with Dylan. Dylan and the coach exchanged thank you’s through sign language, and the coach walked away.
We watched both teams’ halftime shows. Dylan watched, clapped, danced to the music. As the halftime shows were both over, the Fairbanks team was ready to go back on the field. Dylan and I watched as they lined up in a single file and approached us slowly with the coach in the lead of them. I was expecting them to run past us. However, something truly amazing happened. Every single one of them stopped and high-fived my son. They ruffled his hair, touched his shoulder, called him by his name, and said words of encouragement to him. I helped Dylan high-five them all. What a truly touching moment. Dylan was so excited he was shaking.
To the awesome team of Fairbanks:
As a mother of a special needs child, this random act of kindness was unexpected and appreciated more than you will ever know. You truly made a little boy’s dream come true and made him feel like he was the center of attention. The tears that stream down my face even as I write this are happy tears, proud tears. Thank you to the coach for guiding these young men and thank you to the guys for taking the time to treat my son to an amazing experience!
My tears flowed as I read Stacey’s words. After confirming that the home team was truly the Triad in Champaign County, I tracked down Stacey to request permission to use her article.
In Stacey’s voice I heard pride for both her sons – Parker, who plays snare drum with Triad’s marching band, and Dylan, who loves the noise and action of Friday night football. Her writing has already spanned the globe, and she has received comments and friend requests from other countries.
Stacey described the deeds of the coach and his players as random acts of kindness, but I believe they were much more. The team’s actions exceeded random when they decided to help Dylan experience the all-important feeling of acceptance.
I also believe that this group of special young men has not yet realized the full impact of their thoughtfulness on themselves. Wherever these players go in life, however they choose to spend their time, they will always have this moment – when they put the well-being of another before their own, when they received as much as they gave – a moment by which they can measure the other moments of their lives.
It was an evening when the ordinary became extraordinary in the lives of a loving mother, an entire group of young men, their exemplary coach – and in the life of a boy named Dylan.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.