Can it be? Am I actually PROUD of something that happened in my own hometown?


1 Response to “Can it be? Am I actually PROUD of something that happened in my own hometown?”

  1. December 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

    SOMERS — Wrestler Reid Paswall won his 135-pound match Friday, which may or may not have had anything to do with karma.
    When he got back to the bench he was greeted by Somers High’s team captains. Only this time, the captains weren’t wrestlers.
    They were Adam Stein and Matthew Moriarty. And they couldn’t have been happier to continue their afternoon of handshakes, hand slaps, forearm shivers and chest bumps.
    Both Stein and Moriarty have Down syndrome. They are special-needs students at Somers High, and it was Paswall’s idea to make them captains for the Tuskers’ first home match of the season.
    The origin of the idea goes back to April 20, 1999, when two teenagers massacred 12 students and one teacher, and injured 21 others, with gunfire at Columbine High in Colorado.
    The first student killed that day was Rachel Scott, who was outside having lunch, Paswall said. She had kept a journal, and one of the entries was about compassion. In it, she talked about starting a “chain reaction” with “kind words” and “little acts of kindness.”
    In her name, from her school and her family, came Rachel’s Challenge, which seeks to spread her message worldwide through presentations. Somers had an assembly about Rachel’s Challenge last year, and another on Nov. 18. When the second one ended, Paswall went to Somers athletic director Roman Catalino with an idea so simple, yet one that so perfectly embodied the “little acts of kindness” message.
    “She just thought that if you would do one nice thing, another person will see it and they’ll do a nice thing, and then the next thing you know, everybody will be (doing one),” Paswall said.
    “I thought that, maybe instead of our captains (who) usually go out and shake hands with the other team’s captains, that we can have our special-needs kids go out and shake the other team’s captains’ hands, and they can go out and wear Somers stuff and represent Somers.”
    The idea, as you might imagine, was a grand slam. Catalino and wrestling coach Dennis DiSanto jumped on board. Doreen Stoecker, the special-education teacher whose class is composed only of students with mental disabilities, loved it. Her entire class, with help from the wrestling team and other students, made posters for the wrestlers during the week.
    “I though it was a great idea,” DiSanto said. “One of the things we’re trying to do with Somers wrestling is not focus on winning, winning, winning; you know, we want to focus on becoming a better person also. I thought that was something that fits right into some of the things we talk about in practice.
    “I didn’t know how the other kids would react considering that’s the first home match and some of them are captains for the first time and it’s a big thing. So I said it was great, ‘But I want you to speak with the other kids.’ And he did and they were excited about it.”
    They sure were.
    One of the captains, senior Joe Izzo, lives on the same block as Stein and Moriarty.
    “I think it’s pretty important to get some awareness, that these kids are at our school and we do spend a lot of time with them and they’re part of our lives,” Izzo said. “They’re not just signs or numbers. They’re actual people, and that’s important.”
    “Definitely,” added captain Brian Realbuto, who incredibly got his 135th career win in the second match of his sophomore year on Friday. “Our team can help the school in so many different ways and I think this is a great way for them to really reach out for kids that want to be part of the team.”
    So the day arrived, and Stein and Moriarty were there, in their Somers T-shirts. They were introduced as the team captains to a standing ovation, and they ran between the lined-up wrestlers on either side, and onto the mat. They shook hands with Greeley’s captains, and with their “teammates” and they were so thrilled they could barely speak.
    “Excited,” Moriarty said, repeatedly. “Great honor.” And he added, “The wrestling team at Somers, No. 1.”
    Stein is perhaps more experienced at this. He was a “member” of the football team a couple of seasons back, and even got into a game under arranged circumstances.
    “My team, my town,” he said. “Big day.” He talked about the heart of the wrestlers and that he was glad they won.
    “I thought it was so great,” said Stoecker, the teacher. “The two young men, they love sports, they love being a part of the typical high school.
    “One of them is Adam, who is unbelievable, just a typical teenager. He loves sports, he loves being popular, he loves walking down the halls and knowing everybody. So when he found out, he was like, ‘Yeah! I totally love hanging out with the wrestling team and support them and go to their match.’ If he could, he would go to every sporting event the school ever had.”
    Paswall won his second match of the year. Last season he was 7-0 when he tore the meniscus in his knee in December and needed season-ending surgery. He said he was “licking my chops” for the season to get going, after all the rehab and off-season work.
    In the big scheme, this victory was small. So was this little act of kindness. Maybe it will start a chain reaction.

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