MAHWAH, N.J. – Homecoming games are usually a highlight for high school football players, but Friday’s game in Mahwah is going to be extra special for the state champion Thunderbirds as well as another group of young people who will join them on the field.
The team will be accompanied by children from Mahwah with disabilities – such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.
“We thought it would be a nice idea for the kids to experience football as well as meet the football players,” said Gary Glucoft who spearheaded the event for Mahwah’s new Access For All Commission.
The commission, formed in May, is charged with advocating “to help enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and access challenged persons so that they can participate, to the fullest extent possible, in everyday activities in the community,” according to its mission statement.
“We have 18 residents that are just dedicated and passionate for this commission to make a difference,” said Jennifer Whalen-Gares, chair of the commission.
On Friday, the children with disabilities will receive footballs signed by the Mahwah High School team, interact with the players, watch them warm up, and go into the locker room for a pre-game talk and prayer, Glucoft said. The kids will also be announced during the national anthem, and will have reserved seating to cheer on the Thunderbirds.
“The idea is to give them a special night and experience,” said Glucoft.
Friday’s event is one of the first in what the commission hopes are many gatherings and that include people of all ages with disabilities in Mahwah.
“We are really going to do great things,” Whalen-Gares said.
As an initial introduction to the community, the commission had a booth at Mahwah Day, and talked to a couple hundred residents, Whalen-Gares said.
It is also holding an open house -- focused on public safety and fire prevention -- on Thursday, Nov. 3, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Ramapo Ridge Middle School.