LYNDHURST, N.J. -- Thanks to a unique bond between Lyndhurst High School's football players and an appreciative group of teens, the area's very first Special Needs Super Bowl kicks off on Monday.
The LHS varsity coaches will face members of the Special Angels recreation program in a flag football game at the high school, with the varsity players guiding their young charges.
Deborah Wertalik, president of the 12-year-old Special Angels program, promises an unforgettable event.
“The coaches will play, and the varsity football players who've served as their mentors will help the special needs boys," she said. "[LHS student] Sarah Madonna will sing the national anthem. The varsity cheerleaders will be there. The LHS band will play."
Wertalik, whose organization also operates baseball and soccer leagues, was the catalyst.
She'd previously convinced LHS Football Coach Rich Tuero to make her grandson, Tyler, who has autism, the team manager -- handing out water and rooting for the players.
This year, she suggested a Big Brother-styled partnership.
Tuero jumped at the chance.
The Special Angels -- who come from Bergen, Passaic, Hudson and Essex -- get tips from the high-school players on how to punt, pass and kick. They also wear jerseys and root for their mentors at home games.
To cap their season, the boys get to participate in their own "big dance," complete with introductions, beginning at 7 p.m. Monday.
"This is not only a feel-good story," Wertalik told Daily Voice. "It's a story that brings hope acceptance and inclusion for our Special Needs population.
"It also provides inspiration to the high school students and staff members who participate."
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