Our son, Benji was scheduled for surgery relating to his ligaments and
muscles from having Cerebral Palsy. It was scheduled the off week
before the 1992 Alabama-Auburn game.
This is the story of what Coach Gene Stallings did for this little boy.
A few days before surgery Patricia and I decided to offer Benji his
choice of something to do on the eve of the operation. Knowing he would
be in a half body cast for six weeks, we wanted him to have a good time
doing something he would enjoy the day before the operation. What Benji
wanted to do blew us out of the water, although it really shouldn't
have considering he had developed a love of the Crimson Tide.
wanted to go to Tuscaloosa and play on Alabama's artificial turf where
the football players worked out. He learned about the Astroturf field
on a television newscast covering an Alabama football practice.
allergic to grass, Benji had never been able to play anywhere but in
the house. We always played a game I called tackle tickle in the
hallway. I would roll Benji his little rubber football and, once he
picked it up and crawled toward me, I would gently lift him up in a
tackle motion and then lower him to the floor and tickle him on his
He loved that game dearly and now he had his heart set on
scooting around Alabama's Astroturf and getting tackled just like he
was a real Bama football player.
I told him all I could do was make
a call, but I was sure it would not be possible. I told Benji that the
Astroturf practice field is only for players and coaches and not for
little boys and their daddies. I assured him I would make the call, but
I also warned him not to get his hopes too high.
I called the
University of Alabama operator and explained my problem. She in turn
connected me with Linda Knowles, who was Coach Gene Stallings’
administrative assistant. Linda was very understanding but agreed with
my assessment of the situation, in that it probably would not be
possible for Benji to scoot around outside on the artificial turf on
what was expected to be a cool November afternoon. Still she took my
phone number, told me she would check around to see what she could do,
and then would call me back a little later in the day. I thought she
would check with field maintenance personnel, get a resounding “No” and
that would be the end of that.
Less than thirty minutes after
speaking with Linda, the phone rang and it was none other than Coach
Gene Stallings. This was the off week before the Auburn game for an
undefeated team seeking a national championship. Coach took time out of
a very busy preparation schedule to make this call. I was absolutely
Coach Stallings said, “I hear your son wants to come play on my football field.” I told him it was true.
Coach Stallings wanted to know all about Benji's Cerebral Palsy and
upcoming surgery. I told him the whole story and Coach said he knew
what Benji, Patricia and me were going through. He then said it would
be fine to come over the afternoon prior to surgery. He asked if
Patricia would be coming as well and I told him she wouldn't miss it
for the world. He then told me how to get out onto the turf from the
parking lot, where he would have someone open the gate into the
football complex. I thanked him and we said our goodbyes. Just as I
began to hang up Coach said, "Hey, wait a minute!" Coach Stallings then
asked if I thought Patricia would mind if he came out for a minute to
see Benji on the practice field, if he could find the time. Coach said
things were pretty busy getting ready for the Auburn game, but if he
could find a moment he'd like to see our son and wish him luck with the
surgery. I told him he didn't have to do that, but we sure would love
it if he did. I thanked him and we hung up the phones.
immediately called Patricia at work and told her the good news. She
couldn't believe it. Benji would get his request and he might even meet
Coach Stallings to boot.
We decided to only tell Benji we had heard
from Coach Stallings and he was going to let him play on the Astroturf.
We felt it was best not to tell Benji he possibly would meet Coach in
case the workload prevented it. Benji was ecstatic. He asked to play
tackle-tickle in the hallway several times leading up to that wonderful
When the day arrived we made our way that forty-five minutes
over to Tuscaloosa and, just as promised, the football complex gate was
open for us. I carried Benji in my arms and Patricia was in tow with
his little football and his toy Alabama football helmet. Benji always
loved to wear that thing when we played tackle tickle. We also brought
our camera to take photos of Benji on the Astroturf. Of course in the
back of our minds, like any parents would be, we were crossing our
fingers that Coach might pop out to see Benji on the field.
and I played tackle-tickle for a little while and then Patricia told
Benji to look up for a moment. Coach Stallings was coming out of the
football offices and making his way toward us. Benji perked up and
grinned ear to ear. I’m sure he couldn't believe the man he saw so much
every day on videotapes was here in person.
Not only did Coach
Stallings come to meet with Benji, he brought along a present. It was
one of the game balls from the 1992 Homecoming game against South
Carolina played five weeks earlier. Patricia and I told Coach he didn't
have to do that, but he said it was his ball and he wanted to give it
to Benji. On the threads of the football were written the words “Beat
The Cocks”. Alabama had beaten the Gamecocks that year 48-7 and we had
taken Benji to the game. Coach Stallings then took out a magic marker
pen from his pocket and said he wanted to sign the ball for Benji. I
had my 35mm camera and asked if he would mind me taking some pictures
of him and Benji. Coach said he wouldn't mind at all. Benji already had
crawled over to Coach and had his body facing him, but his head turned
toward Patricia and me. Benji then turned all the way around to face
Coach Stallings, as Coach wrote the following inscription on the ball
in big writing. "To Benji, Your Friend, Gene Stallings."
Benji the football and the two of us went back to playing tackle tickle
with my son's new prized possession. Coach Stallings in the meantime
held a conversation with Patricia. She later informed me Coach had told
her that children like Benji and his own son, John Mark, have a one-way
ticket to heaven and nothing can take that away.
posed for some more photos; one with the whole family as Patricia held
the football, Coach Stallings held Benji and I set the camera timer
before running over to join in the photograph.
Coach then told us
he wanted Benji to come visit him in his office after he recovered from
surgery. He said he wasn't just saying that to be nice. He said he
really wanted to see Benji again.
One look at those photographs
would tell anyone what that football meant to Benji. From the moment
Coach Stallings gave it to him, he could hardly take his hands off it.
Seeing this, I asked Coach if Benji could play with that ball instead
of us putting it in a glass case or something like that. I said I knew
it was a keepsake, but I thought Benji would get more out of it if he
were allowed to play with it all the time. We would always have the
photographs for any memory’s sake. Coach Stallings agreed
wholeheartedly with me on that. Coach said it would thrill him to know
Benji actually played with that thing.
Patricia and I thanked Coach
again for making the day before surgery a memorable one for Benji.
Coach said we could stay out on the Astroturf field as long as we
wanted. We then said our goodbyes and Coach Stallings made his way back
to the football offices.
We played for a while longer, until Benji
had gotten his football fix, and then made our way back to Birmingham
so Benji could get a good night's rest, before having to be at
Children's Hospital at six o’clock the following morning.
stopped and got the photographs developed at a one-hour photo place,
because I just couldn't wait to see if they turned out okay. Developing
those photos that afternoon was to be a blessing in disguise.
the hospital the next morning I began to get a little antsy, or better
to say I was terrified of this six-procedure surgery. I tried and
succeeded in not letting on to Benji how I felt, but Patricia knows me
well and was trying to keep me calm. I was a nervous wreck.
put in a room with a bed for Benji and they came in with the liquid
that makes a person oblivious to what is going on around them. Benji
had selected a Doctor Pepper flavored oxygen mask. We made light of
that and any other thing we could think of to get Benji's mind off
surgery. Before they came to take him we prayed as a family.
I wrote a poem about my thoughts that morning. Here is my poem:
PRELUDE TO SURGERY
|Can't help but ponder, the three years in the past|
|Insurance wouldn't risk it, they said you might not last|
|The doctors they said little, to ease your parents' pain|
|I'd love to find that doctor now, who said you had no brain|
|He said we should commit you, he said that would be best|
|But our choice was to keep you, and give our love a test|
|Then there were the specialists who thought you'd never make it|
|But you fought death for three long months and proved that you could take it|
|Can't help but worry, it's only hours away|
|Let this be the right choice, dear Lord is what I pray|
|My son you see the white coats, you fear the doctor's touch|
|Look to the Lord in dreamland, and to his robe do clutch|
|His angel's wings will lift you, then healing will begin|
|Don't look for scars to vanish, for healing is from within|
|You'll feel the power burning, deep within your heart|
|May God then grant us courage, to see your rehab start|
|Can't help but marvel, at your strength and will|
|With me and mamma so afraid, we sense that grasping chill|
|Now here comes the stretcher bed, I don't think I can take it|
|I choke on words, "it'll be all right", and I know I have to fake it|
|Mamma leans to kiss your cheek, holding back a tear|
|I then hug you one last time, trying to show no fear|
|There you go off down the hall, it's now the surgeon's chore|
|We walk beside you step by step . . . until they close the door|
The waiting seemed like forever and when it finally was over it really
wasn't over at all. After surgery and while in the recovery room, it
was learned Benji was allergic to the Demerol medication administered
to him for pain. The allergic reaction caused even greater pain and
there would be nothing the doctors could do until at least four to six
hours later, when the Demerol would leave his body. He then could
receive morphine for the pain, but for now Benji simply would have to
suffer through what the doctors called "discomfort."
could do got Benji's mind off the pain early on. We turned cartoons on
the television and tried to hold him as best we could in a half body
cast. Benji was crying out in pain, the nurses were crying and I'm
telling you even one of the doctors was crying. You could tell these
people really cared about Benji and it was hurting them to see him in
Finally Patricia reached into her purse. She had
brought the photographs of Benji with Coach Stallings and asked Benji
if he wanted to see them. He nodded that he did want to see them, while
still crying in pain.
Benji took the photos and looked at them with
tears rolling down his cheeks. He pulled out the one of him kneeling in
front of Coach Stallings when signing the football, and he took that
photo and held it to his chest. Benji then closed his eyes and the
cries became whimpers. He still moaned lowly as he faded off to sleep,
holding that photo as tight as he could.
Everyone in the room was
in awe. The doctors couldn't believe it, the nurses couldn't believe it
and me and Patricia could just shake our heads in disbelief. Without
even knowing it, Coach Gene Stallings had provided Benji with something
no doctor would be able to offer for hours. . . peace of mind. I'll
never forget that moment as long as I live.
Before Benji woke up,
the Demerol had left his system and morphine had been administered.
There were no other complications and he was released from Children's
Hospital on schedule.
We had purchased a Radio Flyer red wagon just
like the ones used by Children's Hospital to transport children in
style, not to mention the fun ride it provided a kid. Benji's half body
cast made his legs slant out like the letter "A" complete with a
carrying bar plastered across the middle. With pillows galore as a
backrest and headrest, his cast straddled the wagon's sides.
came up from Mobile to tend to Benji during times we were at work or
during times of sleep. She was a godsend. The hardest chore, as you can
imagine in such a cast, was going to the potty. There were places left
out in the cast for a diaper, but it proved difficult to keep changed
just the same. Other than that Benji seemed to accept the cast without
Benji was the man of the hour at United Cerebral Palsy
once he returned for pre-school in his cast. All the children and
teachers would hover around him and his little red wagon. Benji liked
being the center of attention among his friends during this time. In a
little over a month’s time after he returned to school, the cast was
removed and the hard work of rehabilitation began.
I continued using
Alabama football as an incentive for Benji at this physically difficult
time in his life. When Coach Stallings and Alabama went on to defeat
Florida in the SEC Championship and then routed top-ranked Miami to win
the national championship, I knew our VCR machine would be in for the
workout of all workouts. That little boy lives and breathes Alabama
Despite being very frustrated at his physical
limitations, Benji’s loveable personality was really beginning to
blossom. Even with the severe speech impediment common with Cerebral
Palsy, Benji wanted to talk to everyone he met and let them know he was
a big Alabama fan. He would talk football almost nonstop and his
teacher at United Cerebral Palsy used that as part of her preschool
workload for him.
Benji worked extremely hard in rehab and before
long, he was able to walk for the first time in his life, with the aid
of a metal walker provided by the Shriners. We were so proud of him and
we told him Coach Stallings was really proud of him as well. Whenever
we would mention Coach, Benji would perk up. He would ask us if we
really thought Coach Stallings was proud of him. We would tell him
Coach Stallings was so VERY proud of him and then Benji would work even
harder in rehab. Benji also would ask if we were going to take him back
to see Coach Stallings. Now since Coach Stallings had told us he wanted
us to do just that, I called Linda Knowles. She said Coach had been
waiting to hear from us to set up such a meeting.
When we arrived
in Tuscaloosa a week later, we went into the football complex and saw
all those national championship trophies in the lobby. We took the
elevator to the second floor and told the receptionist that Linda was
expecting us. Benji was so excited about getting to see Coach Stallings
again. Since it was our first time ever in the football offices, he
also was awestruck by all the memorabilia we had seen in the lobby.
When we made our way down the first corridor, Benji was all smiles, but
as he rounded the corner he stopped abruptly and began to act
terrified. I asked what was the matter. Benji gave no answer and began
to cry. It was the same reaction we had seen for years whenever we
would have to take Benji to the many doctor’s offices. I looked up at
the corridor walls and indeed they could have been mistaken for a
doctor’s office. I assured Benji that Coach Stallings did not work in a
doctor's office and if he looked closely at the pictures on the walls
he would see they were of Bama football. Benji wouldn't budge and
continued to cry.
Coach Stallings came out of his office into
Linda's office and said hi. Coach then stepped back into his office and
came out seconds later with an Alabama ball cap, just like he sometimes
wore at football games on cold or rainy days. Benji put on the cap and
said, "I love you Coach Stallings" and began to walk around in his
walker all happy, having seen Coach and now assured there would be no
doctors here with needles to prod and poke.
The visit lasted only a
moment, but you could tell both Benji and Coach Stallings were quite
moved. I wish Patricia could have been there, but she had too much work
on her desk to warrant taking off another day.
told me he wanted Benji to feel free to come play on his indoor or
outdoor artificial turf fields whenever he wanted. I told Coach we
would try to keep it to about three times a year if that was all right
with him. I didn't want to impose. If it weren't for Benji being
allergic to grass I would probably not have wanted to even come that
often. Coaches are very busy and I didn't want to be like an autograph
hound; you know, a real pain in the rear. I then thanked Coach for
Benji's new ball cap and congratulated him on winning the national
championship. I thanked Linda for having made all this possible and
then Benji and I left to go to the Paul W. Bryant Museum. We hardly
ever can take a trip to Tuscaloosa without Benji asking to go to the
museum. It is his favorite place in Alabama. Thankfully the video
displays change over the years, because I know we've been there
From that point on Benji continued to see Coach
Stallings several times a year; once at the start of spring football
practice, once during the summer and once during the season. Both Linda
and Coach Stallings always were gracious and insisted Benji could come
more often. When Coach Stallings resigned after the 1996 football
season, he met with Benji one final time before going home to his ranch
in Texas. During that meeting Coach Stallings gave Benji his home
telephone number and insisted Benji call him every now and then at his
ranch to let him know how things were going.
For a year or so we
did keep in touch with Coach Stallings by telephone every now and then.
Benji would talk about the upcoming call all day long until I would
dial the number. Then he would be so quiet and shy on the phone, saying
hardly a word, and I wondered just what in the world Coach Stallings
was thinking about me making the call. Then, once the call was over,
Benji would be talking a hundred miles an hour again, and he’d tell
everyone who would listen that he had talked some football with Coach
Patricia took up the hobby of crocheting a while back
and she began making Afghans. She made John Mark a blanket of Alabama’s
mascot Big Al. One time during Benji’s call to Coach Stallings, Ruth
Ann Stallings came on the phone to tell us John Mark really loved that
Afghan. Patricia was so very happy on hearing that.
all of this I kept thinking how Coach Stallings must have been doing
the same things for the children of Texas that he had done in Alabama.
I could not get this out of my mind. Eventually I held a family meeting
with Patricia and Benji and told them I felt we should stop calling
Coach. I told Benji it would be unfair to the boys and girls of Texas
for us to continue taking away from their time with Coach Stallings.
Benji asked if I thought Coach Stallings would always remember him. I
told him indeed he would.
We did call one time when John Mark was
very ill. A mutual friend, whose daughter attends the same church the
Stallings family had attended while at Alabama, told me I really needed
to ignore my feelings on imposing and make that call. And so I did.
I told Coach Stallings we were keeping John Mark in our prayers. He
thanked me and then asked about Benji. Being the man he is, Coach told
me he would not have given Benji his home telephone number if he didn’t
want to hear from him. That made me feel good inside.
We all know
the recent 2002 football season marked the tenth anniversary of Coach
Stallings and the Alabama Crimson Tide winning the 1992 national
championship. For me personally, it marked a time when a remarkable man
came into our son’s life. This man turned Benji’s frustration into
serenity, his pain into comfort and, over the course of many years,
made our little boy (who wondered where he fit in this great big old
world) find a welcome second home in the Alabama football program.
what I refer to as the Camelot years of the special needs children in
the state of Alabama, I frequently visited the Little Professor
Bookstore in Homewood, just south of Birmingham. This bookstore had a
refreshment stand complete with tables and chairs, allowing patrons to
buy something and then sit down to read what they purchased. That
bookstore had newspapers from all over the country and from some of the
major cities in Alabama. I used to go there each week and buy any
newspaper that had a story on the Crimson Tide. That day one of the
newspapers had yet another story on what Coach Stallings was doing for
special needs children. This time it was a story on a visit from
children at the RISE program, complete with a photo of a little girl
with Down syndrome wearing a Bama football helmet on her way out onto
the practice field, where Gene Stallings was spending so much time with
those children just like her. A girl had Big Al the elephant on her
shirt and a boy was donning a championship cap. It truly was a
I remember thinking to myself what a kind soul
Gene Stallings had in spending so much of his time with all these
children. I also felt so very lucky that Benji benefited from this
passion Coach Stallings had for making each and every one of these
children feel they are special.
The tranquility from reading that
story was broken when an absolute jerk, who was a fan of another school
in our state, told me it was all a gimmick and that Coach Stallings was
just playing to the press for a good photo opportunity or two.
was so mad I could have bitten a two-penny nail in two, but I held my
tongue, with the exception of telling the man he was mistaken.
the drive back home from the bookstore I kept thinking of things I
should have said to the jerk, but alas it turned out fine. The
situation inspired me to write a poem the moment I arrived home, to
honor Coach Stallings for the father he was to his son… for the friend
he was to my son… and for the inspiration he was to the sons and
daughters of people in each and every city he ever had resided.
Here is my poem:
A REMARKABLE MAN
|Coach Gene Stallings|
|I just read a wonderful story, about a truly remarkable man|
|And I'd like to pass it on to you, as best as I possibly can|
|The man is a coach of champions, who stands tall, clean and proud|
|It's what's done off the field however, that lifts him above the crowd|
|Coach Stallings showed his true character, in raising John Mark his Down syndrome child|
|And Coach lavished praise upon Johnny, for helping his demeanor grow mild|
|It was such a wonderful story, what he does for our handicapped youth|
|More than one tear appeared in my eyes and I'm here to tell you the truth|
|Coach Stallings spoke with each parent and had such wonderful things to say|
|He said these children have a ticket to heaven and nothing can take that away|
|So much time he spent with the children, smiling faces were scattered about|
|The children went home with their parents, so excited they just had to shout|
|Some girls had shirts with an elephant, some boys had championship caps|
|They all had enough fond memories, to last through those dreaded noon naps|
|Though pain and frustration continued, it was not quite severe as before|
|The story made the parents come to realize, the sheer power of this man they adore|
|When a child fought daily through therapy and the simplest task was a chore|
|"Mom, Dad, Coach Stallings are so proud,” now the child would try it some more|
|As I finished reading this story, a man seated beside me kept grinning|
|Having read it over my shoulder, he said Coach only cared about winning|
|He said don't go fallings for features, they're written to boost an image|
|If I wanted to see the real Stallings, then check out tomorrow's scrimmage|
|I stood up and folded the paper; this smart aleck had crossed the line|
|The fool was wrong and I told him so, knowing one of those children was mine|
Yes sir, the Kenny family has so many fond memories of Coach Stallings
and the time he spent with Benji. I treasure each and every one of them
and I know Benji does as well.
During one of Benji’s visits Coach
Stallings had this raccoon he let climb on his shoulder. It appeared to
be a baby raccoon and was real tame. Benji got the biggest charge out
of him and Coach playing with that raccoon.
One other time after a
visit with Coach Stallings, Benji and I made our way over to the Bryant
Museum. While we were watching the different videos on display, the
curator informed us John Mark Stallings was working for the museum and
asked Benji if he ever had met John Mark. We told him we had not and he
invited us into another room on the other side of the museum. Benji
told John Mark he had seen him on CBS TV years earlier when John Mark
and Coach were interviewed for the Iron Bowl.
After watching that
game over and over again throughout the years, Benji practically had
memorized everything on that VCR tape. I asked John Mark if he
remembered what he said on television that Thanksgiving week and he
said it again for Benji, “ROLL TIDE TURKEY!” We all laughed and I told
John Mark it felt great to meet a superstar like him face to face. John
Mark then asked Benji if he’d like to see his 1992 national
championship ring. Benji’s eyes got really big when John Mark took off
his ring and let him hold it for a closer look. I told John Mark he was
as nice as his daddy and also told him Coach Stallings was the best
daddy in the whole wide world. John Mark answered he already knew that.
By far the most memorable meeting we had in the football complex came
the week Alabama was to play LSU in Baton Rouge during the 1996 season.
An undefeated 7-0 and highly ranked Bama team had just lost 20-13 to
Tennessee in Knoxville. Next up would be LSU down on the bayou. Bengal
Tiger fans were gearing up for what they believed would be their first
home win over the Crimson Tide in twenty-five years. The media seemed
to agree with that assessment. We called Linda after the loss to the
Vols and asked her what she thought about Benji stopping by to see
Coach Stallings later in the week to show his support. Linda said she
thought seeing Benji would make his day and so we set up the meeting
for later in the week.
Coach Stallings met Benji and me in the
hallway leading to Linda's office. He greeted Benji with his patented
usual smile and then looked at me and said, "Can I ask you something?"
I told him he could ask me anything.
said the entire football team was meeting in the building at that very
moment and he wondered if Benji could go into the room and walk in
front of the players. Coach thought that seeing this child walk, after
all he had been through, could inspire the team. I was very grateful at
the opportunity for us to give a little something back to the program,
after all that had been done for our son. As for Benji, well he was on
cloud nine. He was thrilled he would get to see all his favorite
players in one room at one time. Benji giggled all the way down the
hall, practically running in his walker behind Coach Stallings and in
front of me. It surely was one of the happiest days of his life.
Coach Stallings gave the team a history of Benji's Cerebral Palsy and
how the specialists predicted he would never walk, or even be able to
talk. Coach told the players of Benji's operation four years earlier in
November 1992 to sheer back his Achilles Tendons, his groin muscles,
and the tendons and ligaments behind his knees, which did allow Benji
to walk with assistance.
Coach allowed me to tell the players how
much they meant to children like Benji. I explained how I used their
televised football performances to inspire Benji to give his best
effort during therapy and in everyday life. I told these athletes Benji
now was able to do the three things doctors earlier had predicted he
would never, ever do: TALK, WALK, and THROW A BALL. Without use of
Alabama football videos from infancy to present day, I’m not sure where
Benji would be developmental wise. I finished by telling the players
what they were about to witness only was possible due to the grace of
God and the inspiration Benji got from watching Alabama football
players, along with Benji’s hard work. I thanked the players for coming
to the University of Alabama; the Mecca for special needs children. I
then thanked Coach Stallings in front of his football team for being
the man he was.
Coach then turned to Benji and asked him if he felt
up to strolling his metal walker across the floor. Benji hurriedly
strolled over to Coach Stallings, who was smiling broadly. Then Benji
stood up and walked back to me without using the walker. He could walk
very short distances without it, but it took a lot of effort and the
spasticity was overwhelming. Every step was an example of utmost
determination. I gave Benji a big hug when he reached my outstretched
arms. I lifted him up and faced the players.
There wasn't a dry eye
in the place. It was a sight to see… all these big, strapping athletes
showing their emotions. The players gave Benji a standing ovation and
Coach Stallings was shaking his head in wonder. Benji whispered in my
ear that he would like to tell the players something. I passed it on to
Coach and he quietened down the applause.
Benji said only five words. “I LOVE YOU.” And “ROLL TIDE!”
that we said our goodbyes to Coach Stallings and started to make our
way out of the meeting room. As we were leaving, Coach Stallings could
be heard telling the players they had just witnessed what it meant to
have courage on an everyday basis.
Saturday night came and Benji
was glued to the television. Bama absolutely destroyed LSU 26-0 that
night, with Shawn Alexander and company literally ramming the ball down
LSU's throat. It was sheer determination and an absolute display of
When Coach Stallings autographed his book about
John Mark entitled "Another Season" he wrote the following inscription
to our son: "To my friend Benji – Your walking for our team before the
LSU game helped us win - Thank you for all you do. Gene Stallings.
The Stallings family recently came back to Tuscaloosa for the annual
Gene Stallings Charity Golf Outing to benefit RISE. Linda Knowles
convinced us to come over and see them. By now Patricia had really
improved her crochet technique and she had made John Mark an exact
replica of the new Alabama elephant logo. Coach Stallings had pictures
made of that blanket immediately while still on the golf course. He
really was impressed with Patricia’s talent.
As for Johnny, well he
had no idea at first that Patricia was giving the Afghan to him. He
thought she was just showing the Afghan off. When John Mark realized it
was his to keep, he asked Patricia for a BIG hug, and then he hugged
Benji, and then he hugged me. John Mark is such a happy man. And it
appeared he was even happier that day.
We have so much to be
grateful for this upcoming Thanksgiving. One of the things the Kenny
family can thank God for is allowing Benji to have met Linda Knowles
and Coach Gene Stallings and become their friend. I only hope they know
how much they have influenced the life of this wonderful child.
Michael J. Kenny