The blare of sports casters and the sounds of athletes can be heard throughout my house on any given day. ESPN is a constant channel in my home that consumes much of our time. Typically, I drown out the noise and the latest talk about players and fantasy football teams, but on this particular day, a story caught my attention. A young boy born in Massachusetts, Danny Keefe, suffered a brain hemorrhage after his birth, which caused a speech impediment called Apraxia, a neurological disorder that causes problems with sounds, syllables, and words, which some of our students have suffered from in the past.
Danny is the official “water coach” for the Bridgewater Badgers Peewee football team. What’s even more unique about Danny is he dresses in a suit and tie with a fedora every day by choice, which by any girl’s standards makes a man charming and classy, but to the other 6-year-olds in his class, it makes him stand out and has opened him up for teasing and bullying. When kids began making fun of his speech impediment and his flashy outfits, Danny’s older brother Tim, a member of the Bridgewater Badgers Peewee football team, told his teammate, Tommy Cooney, the quarterback, about Danny’s story. After hearing Danny’s story, Tommy took action and started “Danny Appreciation Day.” On Nov. 20, 2014, 45 boys dressed up in a suit and tie in support of Danny and to fight against bullying in schools. Even Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, honored Danny and invited him to a Patriots game with his family.
Danny and his football team are true examples of how we can help, support, and protect other children with learning disabilities in our schools who may be suffering the same treatment from bullying and attacks from their peers.
I decided to capture Danny’s experience and story as our celebrity feature because of his courageousness and because some of our students have suffered from Apraxia in the past. Although there is no immediate cure for Apraxia, many programs and speech therapists can help children with this type of learning disability. One of the most powerful programs is movement and music which can provide more neural pathways to the brain that help neurological disorders. After building more neural pathways to the brain, it becomes adequately prepared for higher learning and allows children with Apraxia to make greater strides with their speech.
Danny currently works with speech therapists and even wishes to do more to speed his progress. His parents commend him for his dedication and hard work to making his speech even better. We can all learn from Danny’s example. His inspiration gives us all motivation to helping children with learning disabilities reach their full potential.