An 8-year-old Ohio boy left his first football practice completely defeated. In tears, he threw his helmet down on the ground and told his mother that he hated football and wanted to quit. But he would soon receive the surprise of a lifetime that would make him forget all about the bullies.
When Taylan Orton excitedly told his mom, Carrie Wilmoth, that he wanted to sign up for football, she was apprehensive at first. She knew that his cerebral palsy could affect his performance.
After thinking about it for some time, she told her son that they would try it out. She registered her son and sent an email to the president of the youth football league explaining her son’s physical limitations. She also wrote it on all of his forms and had a conversation with the head coach of the team the day of the first practice.
Given all of the notice she gave to different leaders of the organization, she hoped that the coaches would work with Taylan so he could succeed. That, unfortunately, is not what happened.
“The first thing I noticed was a kid push him out of his way. They were doing drills and Taylan was doing his best,” Wilmoth wrote in a Facebook post. “The coaches were yelling at him because he couldn’t do them. Now don’t get me wrong I’m all for yelling at a kid not listening or slacking off. But not a child with a disability trying his best.”
Taylan was eventually sent to a different group because, according to Wilmoth, the coaches didn’t like the way he was performing. After moving to the second group, another child walked up to Taylan and pushed him to the ground.
“Coaches around did nothing,” she wrote.
During the next water break, he came up to his mom with tears streaming down his face. He threw his helmet on the ground and told his mom that he hated football and wanted to quit.
“After he was calm he said that kid told him he was a loser and was going to make them lose,” Wilmoth wrote. “I was irate and we left. Taylan cried himself to sleep last night asking why he wasn’t good enough.”
She reached out to the president of the league and was met with excuse after excuse and no apology was offered.
While her Facebook post didn’t reach millions of people, it did gain the attention of one local football coach’s wife. Emily Buckman saw Wilmoth’s post and came up with the perfect way to minister to little Taylan’s heart.
On Aug. 29, 2018, Taylan received a sweet surprise at lunch. Five players from the Findley High School football team walked into the 8-year-old’s cafeteria holding a poster that read, “Taylan come hang out with us on Friday nights.”
Taylan was beyond excited. He screamed, “Yeah!” and made sure to catch a few pictures with the teenagers before they needed to go back to their own school.
The video of the surprise has since gone viral.
“This means the world to him after everything that happened,” Wilmoth told Fox News. He was so proud of that moment that he told everyone he could that he “was the coolest kid in the lunchroom.” He even fell asleep with the poster in his bed that night.
Quarterback Tanner Rickle told Fox News that it was an awesome experience.
“Honestly it was just amazing! Just to see the look on his face,” Rickle said. “Football’s an amazing sport, and we’re all taught by our coaches, teachers, and families to do the right thing and that was just our one small opportunity to do that.”
Nate Weihrauch, the FHS Athletic director, expressed how proud he was of the five high school students and how excited he is to see Taylan on Friday nights.
“Taylan shares the same passion for athletics as our teams, coaches and athletes at Findlay High. We believe character is important and this was an opportunity to simply help someone,” Weihrauch told The Courier. “We are blessed to have tremendous kids throughout our community that are willing to make a positive difference.”
Not only did Taylan attend the football game this past Friday night, but he also lead the team onto the field in his new Trojan jersey (34).
“Friday night was the highlight of his little life,” Wilmoth told Fox News. “I have never seen his face so lit up. He was on cloud nine. The football players and student section and all the staff will never truly understand how much this means to him and our family!”
“We are so thankful for all the support Taylan has got from everyone who has shared his post to raise awareness about bullying. Bullying is never O.K. and just because you can’t see a disability doesn’t mean it’s not there!”
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