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A varsity letter.

Take heart from our experience, share our joy and pride! Tonight our son received his varsity football letter. So? Athletes do this every year. We applaud them, we encourage them, and we sometimes even wish in a small way it had been or could be us. Well, I must tell you that although he is 16 years old, 5'7" and weighs 175 pounds, our son is no trained athlete. He is a special needs sports junkie. Baseball and all its participants are his first love. His life's dream will be fulfilled when we make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown, N.Y., and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This past fail Bobby started high school. In his adaptive phys ed class they couldn't get him to stop talking about baseball. He talked and talked and talked. His teacher, the Middlesex League Football Coach of the Year, tried to drown him out or shut him up. He found the only way to change the subject was to ask Bobby to be manager for the varsity football team. Bobby then started talking football all the time and life hasn't been the same since.

The team practiced every day after school, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Although Bob was now football manager, he brought a baseball to practice. We even got him a Nerf[TM] football to toss around instead, and the decision of the day became which ball to take. He decided the football was more appropriate. WRONG! The team wasn't pleased. "Bobby, where's the baseball?" Needless to say, the football stayed in the car.

Part of the Team

Bobby had to be at every game. He even gave up Bruins tickets on the ice! He had to be at the game for them, "his guys." In this very cold and often uncaring world, what a bunch of young people! They didn't placate Bob. They didn't merely tolerate or patronize him. They just accepted him, appreciated what he could do and made him part of the team.

Friday nights under the lights -- that's the way they play prima football here. Bob walked the sidelines, back and forth, all the time the game was being played. As he walked, he watched each and every play, the move of every player, trainer, coach and water boy. He didn't miss a thing.

Occasionally his attention was pleasantly distracted by the "ladies," as Bob refers to the cheerleaders. When the "cheer-ladies" noticed that Bob was paying attention to their routine and enjoying the music, one came over and asked him to join them. "Oh no, I'm with the team, thank you." He returned to his pacing, always aware and memorizing every step on and off the field.

One evening we dragged him to Boston for a mandatory family engagement. We left at 5 p.m. and the game started at 7 p.m. We got back to Woburn at 9 p.m. and raced to the football field to see how "his guys" did. The scoreboard proclaimed a Woburn win. Bob was so happy. He ran into the locker room to congratulate the team. All we could hear through open locker room windows were 20 voices chorusing, "Bob, you're late!"

The wins started to accumulate: 1-2-3-4-5! His excitement grew as did his knowledge of the game, its rules and regulations. Then one morning he awakened to discover our entire front lawn, trees, shrubs and lamp post decorated with toilet paper. This took some explaining. The neighbors and I were a bit a bewildered. As the day went on, I learned that the football players themselves had decided to decorate "The Manager's" house. I began to understand. "These guys" were truly exceptional in many areas.

Thanksgiving approached -- the BIG game. The 100th anniversary of the rivalry between Woburn and Winchester. The team was anxious, excited and elevated. Their self-esteem was at an all-time high. Pride was at 110 percent. It was a cliff-hanger, right on the edge to the last minute. In that last minute, Woburn won! Bob was awash in an elated sea of humanity. He congratulated his team and coach and told them, "Good job." He told me he stayed quiet on the bus ride home, though.

Afternoons are longer now. He plays a little one-on-one basketball and one-on-one baseball. (Yes, l know there is no such thing). After talking to his beloved dog and spending some time with the rabbits, he does his paper route and retreats to his room. There he can be alone, surrounded by his highly prized team plaque, his certificate of participation, his newspaper clippings and his football jacket resplendent with that marvelous football letter, the gold football and his first-year pin.

Joy and Pride

He lays down and mentally goes back to that unbelievable night, January 12. He was tickled beyond belief to be invited to the football banquet. His happiness was complete as he sat with the guys again. The meal was great. "The guys" were super. Bobby heard his name called out. The entire room rose to its feet as he received gifts, applause, admiration and the respect of his community.

Our young boy went to watch the football team. Our young man brought home his letter. Veronica Andrews is a freelance writer and full-time mother of five -- Dorothy, 28, Mary Anne, 23, Lesley Ann, 21, Robert, 16, and Sara (Tilli), 13. She lives in Woburn, Mass., with her husband Robert. Andrews is the chief executive organizer for Citywide PTO and a member of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council, both in Woburn. She is a civic activist, speech writer and public speaker for children. Her article, Wait... Here He Comes!, was published in the April/May 1992 issue of Exceptional Parent.
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Title Annotation:developmentally disabled teenager Bobby Andrews wins letter as high-school football manager
Author:Andrews, Veronica
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Words:958
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