Thursday, October 21, 2010

Possibilities

I love my hometown. I miss it often during the year, although I am surrounded by other fantastic elements here, like frequent sunshine. But my hometown seems special to me not merely because of the litany of memory attached to where I grew up, but because of what we learned along the way. 

I remain connected to a great deal of people I grew up with, although we have lost a few friends along the way. I love seeing the evolution of people I have known for decades. And I love knowing high school sweethearts still together. And seeing pictures of boys I knew who were big, strapping athletes back in the day who are now fathers. I sometimes laugh and think, oh, I remember your Dad at ____'s party our junior year. Oh, do I know a crazy story about him. And then I realize, Uh oh, I was at that same party. Better keep those shenanigans quiet. I love seeing these same boys toting tiny girls dressed in fairy costumes on Halloween. I love seeing girlfriends of ours that were wonderful, beautiful girls back then living as wonderful, beautiful women now. Not because in either scenario I didn't think these boys or girls had it in them, but because I knew they had it in them.

And when I go home, and we get together, the night is punctuated by laughter and updates, and recollection of silly things we did (like the constant TP'ing of houses...sorry Erik, did I ever admit to you that it was us?) or how I pranced around all hotsy totsy style when I got my first Cat Eye Vuarnet sunglasses. Whoa those were giant sunglasses but bless my tiny heart for trying. 

Not everyone remains and clearly I moved to the opposite coast but quite a contingency still resides there. One of my oldest and closest friends moved back and I love seeing her daughters now wearing the same letterman jackets we wore. And her daughters go to school, and go to dances with children of other people we grew up with. And the water must be enhanced because people look great. And they are happy.

But perhaps the greatness of my hometown is the  power and importance of community. Growing up there, I felt like we were given everything we needed to succeed. And that any endeavor we envisioned was possible. Our teachers, our neighbors, and our friends' parents were interested in us, and seeing us achieve.

So when I saw this in the news, and one of those wonderful women I grew up with then sent me the video, that has already had over 2 million hits on YouTube, it seemed truly representative of our hometown. 

Several weeks ago, during a high-school football game in Snohomish, WA., the hometown Snohomish Panthers avoided a shutout in inspirational fashion as Junior Ike Ditzenberger scored on a 51-yard touchdown run after entering the game for the first time with just 10 seconds remaining.

I love sports, sports stories, and feel good moments. Running a 51-yard touchdown in on your first step on the field is a classic feel good moment for any player. The fact Ike has Down Syndrome doesn't get in the way of his plans.

I smiled as I watched the video of the TD run because the camaraderie was palpable. And because I know that as a parent, the minute your child is born, you want to think they will be exposed to endless opportunities. And possibilities. Special needs kids do not need pity, or sad faces. They need a place to suit up, participate, and an opportunity to shine.

And with the alarming rates of childhood disorders including Autism, our communities need to work together to create more opportunities so special needs kids, in all applicable cases, can be a part of mainstream education. And have access to great possibilities.

Bravo to Ike, The Panthers, and a community that remains healthy and well. I read earlier this week Dateline is coming to Snohomish to cover the story. Good choice Dateline and a smart counterbalance to most of the news we hear today. My Panther Pride is still  firmly intact.

28 comments:

Kat said...

Great post JennyMac! I love this story, it's such a nice change from all the bullying that seems to permeate the news. Your hometown sounds very much like the lovely little town we call home. Which is the main reason we chose to raise our daughter here. She will always have roots, no matter where life takes her. Thanks for the smile this morning. Kat

Sarah at The Stroller Ballet said...

I hadn't heard of this, but I love that you've shared this story. As a certified teacher (high school - currently on hiatus) I always thought that all kids should be in mainstream education and have the same opportunities as others. And actually, that's how my school operated, with a philosophy of inclusion. What a heartwarming story. Can't wait to see the Dateline special.

Sarah at The Stroller Ballet said...

I just tried to post a comment, but am not sure if it worked. So I apologize if there is (somehow) already one up by me! As a certified high school teacher (currently on hiatus) I've always believed in the philosophy of inclusion and how powerful it can be (for all kids). Thank you for sharing this heart warming story! I can't wait to see the dateline special :)

the walking man said...

Seeing as you left no opening for my typical smart ass comment...WAY TO GO IKE!!!!!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

That's fun! I still live in my hometown though few people do. The memories from high school feel so dim, except when we have reunions. I was so disappointed that only about 20% came to the last reunion.I need to see people to relive memories!

singedwingangel said...

This is exactly what I needed to see this morning and I showed it to my husband and my son.. LOVE THIS

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Is Snohomish what used to be the Plateau in Issaquah in the 90's?

Simply Suthern said...

We had a local story of a team letting a wheel chair bound student score a touchdown. When you see people that care enough to give that opportunity the heart of the whole community grows. It also wets the eyes a bit.

Eva Gallant said...

I totally teared up reading the story and watching the video. How wonderful!

AmyLK said...

Goosebumps! And as the mom of a speical needs child, I love to hear these kind of stories! Does the heart good.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for sharing the inspirational story JM.

With the previous sports stories like this, I have been saddened by the criticism thrown at the participants--strange times we live in.

Dumblond said...

Wasn't that a great story? I saw that on King 5 news and just lost it. Not only for Ike and his team but that the opposing team was totally on board with making that happen for him. And knowing that this took place in the great PNW...yeah, we have some good people here.

Kristina P. said...

Hmm, all I got are videos of my fellow schoolmate's meth labs.

secret agent woman said...

Great story.

One of the reasons I got on facebook was as a way to keep up with people I used to know in high school it's nice to see them out living their lives, even if it's from afar.

Mommy Lisa said...

Oh how absolutely wonderful to grow up in a place like that.

My hometown used to be sleepy, now its HUGE by comparison and covered by magazines like Money! http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2009/snapshots/PL2710972.html

Pricilla said...

How magical for ALL of those students.

jojo said...

I watched this the first night it happened, it was all over the local news. I've watched it over and over again and again and each and every time it is with tears. It renews my spirit and lifts my soul to know these kids rallied around their team mate and made his lifetime wish come true. This is so inspiring and I hope that Dateline really does come and do a stroy on it...it's about time.

Traci Arbios@herding squirrels said...

That story is like something out of a movie. Amazing!

Mighty M said...

What a beautiful moment...I've got tears in my eyes and that doesn't happen very often. :)

Christopher said...

this is definitely the time of year for nostalgia, i've been doing it too

Maria said...

What a wonderful departure from the usual gammut of bad news! As a teacher, all ANY child needs is the belief of those around him that he or she can accomplish anything! Thank you for sharing this story! I am looking forward to seeing it featured on Dateline.

Intense Guy said...

Wonderful story - but I'm left wondering if you think your current neighborhood isn't as much of a "community" as you would like it to be.

Go Ike!!!!

DaisyGal said...

oh I love stories like that...mostly because they show us how HUMAN we can be when we try...how compassionate, loving, INCLUSIVE.

I am crying just watching that....WOW

Ed said...

I saw the story and video when it broke on Yahoo Sports.

I touched me.

In a non-sexy way.

Which was sad, but good at the same time.

J.J. in L.A. said...

Have you heard about the high school student in an electric wheelchair who made a touchdown recently? A teammate handed him the ball and everyone on both teams gathered around him as he scored? The video was awesome!

Paul and Kerry said...

awesome post for many reasons! First because we both share the small town love from our youths (go Auburn Trojans!) I have always felt a great deal of comfort when visiting any of my friends that still live there. Also, as a mother of a son with Autism, BRAVO Ike and your view on this. We always tell people that our son is going to do amazing things and probably sports related. We get the blank stare a lot because they are thinking, "but he has autism." AND? SO WHAT? My kid is strong, healthy and agile. Perfect for an athlete.

HalfAsstic.com said...

Thank God for Ike Ditzenberger. And all the other special needs people that help us to see our own humanity.
My best friend, when I was young and growing up in north Texas, was my cousin, Trena. She is down syndrome and one of my favorite people. As a matter of fact my oldest daughter was given Trena's middle name as a tribute to my love for her.
Trena was on the Special Olympics Team for several years in swimming and her competitive spirit is still very prevalent in her personality.
Ike is a very special person, but his team mates, and the opposing team players as well, are truly heroes. I hope the world took notice.

Myya said...

I loved this! What a joyous heartwarming story!