Team to run touchdown play with a child with physical disability
By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Mason Thomas waited on the sidelines with his friend and Miracle League buddy Hayze Kingham during an Atlantic Community High School Eagles football practice.
Mason, 7, told his high school friend Hayze that he was looking forward to watching his favorite football team the Philadelphia Eagles opening game for the 2018 season.
Hayze surprised Mason by telling him he would be coming over to watch the game. And that wasn’t the only surprise involving the Eagles and football.
As the boys watched the high school team practice, Hayze informed Mason of another surprise: Mason would be joining the team during the next home game on the field.
On Oct. 5, Mason will receive a handoff from the Atlantic High quarterback with blocks from the rest of the team as he runs the football in for a touchdown play.
“Wow!” Mason said as his friend Hayze told him the news. “That’s so cool!”
After Mason learned the news, Atlantic High head football coach TJ Jackson called for a break in practice and they all huddled around Mason. Coach Jackson told the team that this season will be dedicated to Mason. At the time, the team held a 2-0 record.
As practice resumed with running sprints, the players yelled out “Mason” as they ran.
Mason and Hayze met three years ago at a Miracle League game. Miracle League is a baseball league with a special field that provides the opportunity for all children to play baseball regardless of their abilities.
Players are helped by buddies. And on that day, Mason and Hayze both needed buddies. Since then, they have spent Saturdays at Miracle League games together.
Mason said he lost count of how many homers he has hit. But his buddy Hayze said he hits a home run nearly every time he goes up to bat.
One of the best surprises Mason gave to Hayze was when he ran the bases without his walker just before Hayze’s birthday.
Mason was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a disease resulting in decreased flexibility of the joints.
“I was shocked,” Hayze said of Mason’s run around the bases without using his walker.
Mason’s mother Jasmin Thomas said programs like Miracle League and the chance for Mason to play in a football game are amazing.
“I never get a chance to watch him play because I have to help him play,” she said.
She said it is amazing to watch Hayze and Mason’s relationship grow through Miracle League and through the upcoming football game.
Even when Mason is having a hard day or is tired, if it is Saturday, he tells his mom he is going to Miracle League to see Hayze, she said.
The chance for Mason to play for the Delray Beach Eagles was orchestrated by Hayze.
Hayze is a sophomore at Atlantic High and is in the International Baccalaureate Programme. For his required culminating personal project, he had to come up with an idea that makes an impact in the community.
“This idea popped into my head,” he said. “Raising awareness for children with disabilities is important to me.”
In addition to allowing Mason to hit the field with the players, the project will help raise awareness for children with special needs.
Fans at the game will receive informational literature provided by Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita Support, Inc.
Hayze will also have to complete a video, essay and trifold board presentation for a showcase in the spring.
Defensive coach Jamael Stewart said this is the first time with the current coaching staff that the team has participated in something like this.
“It’s heartwarming,” he said. “To put a smile on a kid’s face and make an impact, it’s wonderful. It’s all about how you make others feel and I can’t wait for it.”
The game will be played at Atlantic Community High School, located at 2455 W. Atlantic Ave. The community is invited to cheer on and root for Mason and the Atlantic Eagles against the Santaluces High School Chiefs. Kick-off is at 6 p.m.