LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — A moment with all the emotion of the movie “Rudy” took place in Lee’s Summit last week. The moment caught on camera stemming from an act of kindness wasn’t in a stadium, but at Summit Park.
Jack Wendel, 13, has autism. To some outsiders that might define him, but not the other children in the park that day.
He and his family were enjoying Memorial Day when he got a surprise offer from a group of children they didn’t know at a multifamily cookout elsewhere at the park.
“I watched a child come up to Jack that day and ask to play football and he was more than willing, ran right over there,” his mother Ashlee Wendel said.
“He said ‘yes’ and his mom told us he had a disability,” Devin Hill Jr., 11, said.
Wendel’s mother explained he had autism and had never been approached in his life by other kids to play in a game. She was a little anxious how he might be treated. But Wendel was amazed at what happened next. She started recording as the boys handed Jack the ball and cheered him on as he scored touchdowns with a smile on his face.
“I went to bed that night thinking I can’t not share this story. Someone is going to have to find out who these parents are,” Wendel said.
So she shared the moment and the video in a Lee’s Summit Facebook group. Monday Jack and his mom got to see the group of mostly 11-year-olds again and meet their parents for the first time.
“When we walked out of the car and towards Jack and his mother he was happy. He was interacting, they were high fiving each other. Its like a bond they already created with each other,” Devin’s mother Zenette Kearney said.
The boys were quickly back at play with their new friend.
“I’m the Great Bambino,” Jack exclaimed scoring another touchdown.
Their parents were as proud of their children as any athletic accomplishment they could have accomplished on the field.
“The act of kindness is the smallest thing that you can do in life. Teach your children to never look at any one different, always be there and be willing to help others ,no matter what background they may have or disability they may have,” Kearney said.
“I feel happy right now, because we are doing the footballs,” Jack explained.
The chance encounter likely will become a regular game with the boys parents exchanging numbers to meet again.
“It really warms my heart,” Wendel said.