By: Joanie Cox-Henry Contributing Writer
Mason Thomas doesn’t let Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita get him down. The inspiring 7-year-old crossed into the end zone during half-time at Atlantic High School Football team’s home game against Santaluces High School Oct. 5 to the cheers of players on both teams and the support of the entire stadium.
The ball was handed off by Atlantic high’s quarterback as the rest of the team provided blocks for Thomas during his touchdown play. He was then hoisted into the air and was all smiles as the crowd went wild for his stunning victory.
Thomas’s participation in the game was the brainchild of Atlantic High sophomore Hayze Kingham, who is in the highly competitive International Baccalaureate Programme. For his personal project, which is part of the IB curriculum, Kingham, 15, has been focusing on raising awareness for children with special needs.
Kingham and Thomas originally met through the Miracle League of Palm Beach County, where Kingham has spent the past three years working with Thomas as his buddy.
“Mason immediately came to mind when it came time to choose a personal project,” Kingham said. “It’s been really rewarding seeing Mason develop. When I first met him, he needed a walker. Now he can bat all by himself. He doesn’t need a walker anymore and his stamina is increasing. I’m so proud of him.”
Kingham, a Delray Beach resident, worked with Atlantic High School Principal Tara Dellegrotti-Ocampo to make his idea of Mason’s touchdown a reality.
“I’m very proud of Hayze,” said Atlantic High School Principal Tara Dellegrotti-Ocampo. “It started out as a project and now it’s become family. Coach Jackson, our team and our staff have totally embraced Mason. Mason is now a part of our family and we all have a better understanding of his condition.”
Thomas’s condition causes him to have a decreased flexibility of his joints.
“When he was born he couldn’t walk and wouldn’t move any of his limbs, just his pinky,” his father, Karl Thomas told WPTV. “To come from six months old moving just a pinky to being on a football field getting a touch down during half-time is awesome.”
While Thomas’s touchdown could’ve easily happened at football practice, Dellegrotti-Ocampo is in awe of Kingham and all the students who insisted it should happen during a live game.
“It’s very important to always give back and we’re very much about that at Atlantic High School,” Dellegrotti-Ocampo said. “This whole moment was very much student-led. This says a lot about the character of our students here and how they embraced this. All Mason wanted to do was make that touchdown and are thrilled we got to be a part of it.”
Thomas’s experience working with Kingham is being captured for a 15 minute film that Kingham will air in March as part of his personal project showcase.
“Mason will be there,” Kingham said. “Working with him has taught me so much. He has taught me to to be accepting of everyone, the true meaning of perseverance and how to keep working toward my own goals.”