On the eve of my oldest son starting middle school, I was taken back by a photograph of Florida State Universities star receiver Travis Rudolph. Recently Rudolph, along with teammates Dalvin Cook, Deondre Francois, Derwin James and Jalen Wilkerson visited Monfort Middle School in Tallahassee.
It was at lunch that Rudolph caught a student named Bo sitting alone. Rudolph walked up to Bo and asked if he could join him. A simple act of kindness that made a larger impact than Rudolph ever expected. Bo didn’t know who Travis Rudolph was, but was happy just to have a friend.
Bo’s mom, Leah Paske, also took notice posting the following message to her Facebook account after friends sent her a photograph from the lunchroom.
Several times lately I have tried to remember my time in middle school, did I like all my teachers, do I even remember them? Did I have many friends? Did I sit with anyone at lunch? Just how mean were kids really? I remember one kid on the bus called me “Tammy Fay Baker” bc I started awkwardly wearing eye liner in the sixth grade, I remember being tough and calling him a silly name back, but when he couldn’t see me anymore I cried. I do remember middle school being scary, and hard. Now that I have a child starting middle school, I have feelings of anxiety for him, and they can be overwhelming if I let them. Sometimes I’m grateful for his autism. That may sound like a terrible thing to say, but in some ways I think, I hope, it shields him. He doesn’t seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone. It’s one of my daily questions for him. Was there a time today you felt sad? Who did you eat lunch with today? Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody. Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He is a super sweet child, who always has a smile and hug for everyone he meets. A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption “Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son” I replied “who is that?” He said “FSU football player”, then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my sons school today. I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes. Travis Rudolph thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life! #travisrudolph #gonoles #FSU #autismmom #fansforlife
Knowing first hand how much Coach Jimbo Fisher cares about youth with special needs – something tells me that we have not yet heard the last of Travis and Bo’s friendship.