AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions. Unfortunately for 12 year old Bryson Thibodeaux, that’s rarely been the case
“Every year that Bryson has had a birthday, no one has shown up, and it just breaks my heart,” Lindsay Barton, Bryson’s mother said."
Bryson has autism and ADHD. He likes hip hop and loves football, and that makes him just like any other kid. Unfortunately, people don’t always realize that.
“A lot of kids don’t understand or accept autism," Barton said. "They don’t grasp it, they don’t research it, they just think that they’re weird and they’re not. We don’t use that in my household. we don’t use different, but we use unique.”
And because kids don’t understand Bryson, they don’t usually give him presents.
“What I had started doing, my mother and I, taking notes and giving him notes for his birthday and sending him packages and stuff, and I just thought you know what, Byrson deserved, he just honestly deserved to have someone there at his birthday," Barton said.
So enough was enough and desperation took over.
“When I contacted coach Dunnam, I really didn’t think it would go this far, and I really didn’t think it would happen," Barton said. "And then Bryson handed him the invitation and said I would love for your boys to come to my birthday. And he took him to go see the lockers and everything and from then on, it was just a dream come true honestly.”
But that’s just the prelude to what really changed Bryson’s life. It’s when Dumas Head Football Coach Aaron Dunnam stepped aside and let his team take over.
“You know, give him the opportunity, everyone would want to have a birthday party like that, if I was younger and I had the high school football team come, that opportunity to become a future Demon, could be a moment we could cherish forever. we wanted to create that bond with him, he wouldn’t have elsewhere, but he’d have with us," Senior Running Back Cito Rodriguez said.
You see, the Demons live by a mantra. Life isn’t all about football, but football is all about life.
“I think its part of our job description like we were talking earlier. Its part of being a Dumas Demon, its more than just about football, its about influencing your community, influencing the people in your community, your family, your friends, your teammates, so its really just about taking a leadership role for all those around you and helping influence peoples lives in a positive way,” said Josh Turner, Senior Safety.
So helping Bryson wasn’t an option. It had to be done, and the Demons weren’t going to stop with just playing football with him at his party. The students made him the honorary team captain for their game last night. It’s a moment that Dunnam will never forget as a coach and mentor to these kids.
“These kids whether you like or not, are on a platform and athletes are and we see not many of us use it for the good, but definitely not happening in Dumas, Texas,” Head Coach Aaron Dunnam said. "They’re out in their community making a big impact on peoples lives and I think that the best thing, to just see the consistencies in our lifestyles.
And when you ask Bryson how he’s feeling after being impacted by his new friends and heroes, jumping for joy is not the first thing to come to his mind.
“It would feel like all the pain would go away.," said Bryson.
And that’s how Bryson felt after being the honorary team captain, being involved in all the Dumas Demons pre-game activities, and everything else he took part in Friday night. but the gifts didn’t stop coming.
Bryson’s favorite team is the Jacksonville Jaguars because he says they play with heart and work hard. So the Jaguars decided they’d repay Bryson with their own support.
“Hey Bryson, it’s ya boy Josh Allen here. Jacksonville Jaguars, defensive end, first round draft pick, and I’m just here to say we are honored, appreciative for you to be a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, we support you 100 percent, and we just wanna say thank you for that, and just showing how courageous you are man, just absolutely love and respect for you man, this is awesome man, just love to see it man."
The Dumas Demons are undefeated on the field this year and are working towards bringing home a state championship. but if you asked the kids, they’d tell you they’d much rather be undefeated champions in their community, making a positive impact off the field just as they do on the field every Friday night.
“You know, not everything you do will be about football, but everything we’ve learned in football can transfer to our everyday lives and has transferred into our everyday lives, we take it to school, we take it home, we take it everywhere we go just to be a better person, and hopefully make other people’s live better as well," Senior Defensive End Davin Gates said.
So remember that this ball, represents more than the game of football. It represents life and community, and in Dumas, life isn’t about football, but football, well, as coach Dunnam says, is all about life.