ABC News(NEW YORK) — An Arkansas middle school football team recently helped a 10-year-old classmate in a wheelchair fulfill his dream of scoring a touchdown.
Fifth-grader Gabe Mangus from Southside Middle School in Batesville was born with spina bifida, a condition that has prevented him from being able to walk, according to his mother, Jeanne Markowski.
“But he never lets his disability get in the way,” Markowski told ABC News today. “He loves sports, and though he obviously can’t play, he tries to get involved as much as possible and he loves cheering on his teams.”
The 10-year-old’s favorite sport is football, and he regularly attends his middle school team’s practices and games, according to its head coach, Tyson Franks.
“He’s usually always there on the sidelines, cheering on all the boys,” Franks told ABC News today. He added that earlier this year, the boys named Gabe honorary team captain.
But the boys wanted to do even more for Gabe, Franks said. They knew he always wanted to be able to play himself and score a touchdown, and they were determined to make it happen.
“It was all completely the boys’ idea,” Franks said. “They were like, ‘He’s always been here for us and we want to be here for him now.'”
So a few weeks ago, during the team’s last home game, the boys told Gabe that he would be going out into the field.
Gabe was initially scared and hesitant, but the boys had his back.
“They told him, ‘Don’t worry, we got your back! Ready to score a touchdown?'” Franks said. “They pushed him out onto the field and the announcer said, ‘I think something special is about to happen,’ and it sure did.”
The team passed Gabe the football and pushed him down all the way to the end zone. The opposing team even supported the power play by falling over as Gabe and his wheelchair whizzed passed them.
“We’ve gone undefeated this year and have scored quite our share of touchdowns, but no cheer was as loud as the one Gabe got,” Franks said. “The referee even told me he had never seen faces more happy than the one on Gabe and my boys when he scored that touchdown.”
Gabe told ABC affiliate KATV that he was in complete shock.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “It was the best feeling I’ve had — ever.”
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