Monday, November 18, 2013

Hope and Perseverance

Written by Patrick Kelty, Forward by his mom Dena

"What follows is an essay my son wrote upon the 43rd anniversary of the loss of the Marshall University 1970 football team and boosters. Through a once in a lifetime opportunity, my son has found a supernatural connection to the phoenix-like renewal of Hope and Perseverance shared with the campus and the town. This is a young man diagnosed with classic autism, deemed uneducable, denied a meaningful educational opportunity until high school. But he learned despite them all and he graduated high school with a 3.1 gpa surrounded by his hockey team brothers. 

Now he's independently introduced himself to the iconic Red Dawson portrayed by Matthew Fox and Reggie Oliver, the team's quarterback in the aftermath and he's 'family' to them. 

He feels their pain, their renewal and their sorrow.

This tribute--this expression of feeling and connection and emotion.

Joy, opportunity, inclusion, belonging.

This is autism.

Hope and Perseverance
     My name is Patrick Kelty and I am a sophomore at Marshall. I’m able to be here because I am part of the Marshall University College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This week I was honored to lay a rose at the Memorial Fountain for the first time and I wanted to share what it meant to me. It was especially good to do so in the name of Coach Rick Tolley.  
        I am a person who learns a lot about the world by watching movies and when we started looking for a college for me, I watched the movie, “We Are Marshall”. As soon as I saw it, I knew Huntington was the right town for me. When I applied to MU, I wrote:
    “I feel very connected to Marshall because of the many chances that Marshall almost lost just like I did. Marshall was able to grab hold of new chances and hold onto them without giving up.  So was the town. They kept going. It’s because of all they’ve been through, like me, that I have decided to call it Home. “
    So participating in the Memorial Service this week was a big honor for me. This was my second Memorial Service; last year I just watched but when I saw the rose ceremony, I knew I had to be a part of that. Bianca Hynes and Andy Burns from the College Program helped me. It just felt like the right thing to do, especially because of some of my most special friends that I’ve made here. From watching the movie, I recognized Coach Red Dawson. We have lunch together each week and we tailgate together and he’s come to my birthday party. When I see Coach at the ceremony I see how it still pains him but if he can be courageous and go on, I know I can continue to work hard to stay in school.
    I’ve also met Reggie Oliver when I saw him at the ceremony, he embraced me, thanking me for being there and he told me he loves me. I think he can see that my heart feels what all survivors feel—what it’s like to have pain and work hard to overcome hardship. Keith Morehouse overcame by following in his father’s footsteps. All of these men are honorable and courageous and what I strive to be.
     During the ceremony I feel like each of the 75 are standing before me, smiling. I feel them with me all the time and when I feel like giving up, it’s like they’re all right there, encouraging me.
    The town may have experienced a great loss but they managed to overcome it. Some people think it’s sad, but I think about my life with autism and how hard learning is for me but I had to dig down deep and keep learning even when people didn’t believe in me. So I know that a lot of my feelings come from watching the movie where people had to also dig down deep, and I feel it living on the campus where the fountain mourns the lost. But it all gives me hope. I believe that if Marshall could do it, I can do it, too. I will succeed at Marshall so I can get a job working in a museum in Washington, D.C.  With the strength of my friends, and the Autism Program to help, there’s nothing I can’t do.


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