By Kate Depetro
In March of 2015, I met a boy named Benjamin McDermott. Benjamin, who is eight years old, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. SMA is a neuromuscular disease that causes severe muscle weakness. He cannot walk and requires a wheelchair to get around. His family was doing everything they could to try and raise money for a ramp van to travel around in to Benjamin’s doctor appointments and visits with friends and family. Ramp vans cost upwards of $60,000.00, which is a very expensive price tag, but for individuals like Benjamin and his family, they are indispensable.
One Sunday afternoon, I went over Benjamin’s house to spend some time with him. We spent the afternoon battling power rangers and playing games. Benjamin also mentioned to me that he loved sports. He loved watching football, and had a football of his very own. He went on about all the players he loved, his favorite teams, and then asked to throw the football around. I could not stop thinking about what I could do to help Benjamin and his family raise money for a ramp van. As manager of the EGHS Football team, I had an idea. I called Nick Andreozzi (quarterback of the football team), and told him all about Benjamin. I asked him if the team would simply be interested in helping raise some money and perhaps meet Benjamin. However, Nick and the other captains had some ideas of their own. The next weekend, Kevin Lippe, Jared Maymon, Egan Reale, and Nick Andreozzi and I spent a Saturday afternoon with Benjamin and his family. We spent the day painting Easter eggs, playing Heads Up, and power rangers. Benjamin and the crew immediately bonded.
Over the next month, Benjamin became a real East Greenwich Avenger.
The EG volleyball team also helped out Benjamin and his family by hosting a blue out volleyball game. Benjamin was able to meet more students, and more players on the football team. In the Spring, the Football team planned a flag football fundraiser that got the entire school involved in helping raise money for Benjamin. It was a wonderful event, and everybody had a fun time. Finally, football season was starting, and the night the captains have been talking about for months arrived. On Friday September 18th, the East Greenwich Avengers faced their rivalry team Middletown, but also hosted Benjamin and his family, and made Benjamin honorary captain. Benjamin got the best seat to watch the Avengers crush the Middletown team. He sat right on the sidelines with his dad and the whole team. The captains had him come up with them for the coin toss, and helped Benjamin score a touchdown!
Benjamin said after the game, “I am so happy to have made amazing friends, and I really feel like I am part of this team.” The Avengers defeated Middletown 50-6.
I am so happy I asked the EGHS Football team for their help back in March. Benjamin always leaves a positive impact on everyone he meets, and is just like everybody else. The boys on the East Greenwich Football team not only work extremely hard at their sport, but also all have huge hearts. I am so lucky to have them as friends, and I am grateful for the team taking Benjamin under their wing. I would also like to thank Robin Kall for introducing me to Benjamin and for helping our team plan special events for this amazing young man. Benjamin is attending all of the Avenger’s home games, and the football season has just begun! Thank you for everyone who came out to show support for Benjamin and the team as it was a beautiful and fun night.