(This story, produced by MTN’s Brett Kennedy originally aired on Oct. 8, 2017)
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Gavin Voldseth is a seventh grader in the White Sulphur Springs school district. Gavin has Kabuki Syndrome, a disorder characterized by multiple abnormalities that include growth delays and some intellectual disability. Gavin likes music and loves participating in sports like flag football and volleyball at school and loves cheering people on, and that gave his aid, Judy Parks, an idea.
“We were just talking one day and Judy said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if (Gavin) could go to a practice and just be with the boys and whatnot?'” said White Sulphur Springs athletic director Janie Barfuss. “I said that would be awesome. Then I thought, ‘Why not go bigger than that? Why don’t we see if we can have him come to a game and actually get out there with a uniform and play?'”
“We were obviously on board immediately. Knowing his peers and his classmates and how much they love him, that was actually more important to my football players than any plain game itself,” said WSS junior high football coach Travis Novark. “I think that’s what this is supposed to be about, the positives of being on the gridiron or sports in general.”
So Gavin was given some football gear, and in the White Sulphur Springs junior high game against West Yellowstone he was able to warm up with the team and help the Hornets get fired up.
But that wasn’t all. Gavin was made an honorary captain, walking out with the team to do the coin toss, and making new friends along the way. Then Gavin was given a special treat. Before the game started he would be given the ball and would get his chance to score. It was time for Gavin to have his moment, behind picture-perfect blocking, and with a little help from his friends and fellow teammates, he crossed the goal line and scored the most meaningful touchdown of the day.
As Gavin celebrated with his teammates, they then lined up and gave him the ball again on the extra point try for the same result. His parents and two brothers could not have been more proud of the town that was able to make this happen.
“Just really grateful that people took the time to make this work for him. A lot of people orchestrated this and took a lot of time out of their day to make sure that is would go smoothly,” said Kim Voldseth, Gavin’s mom. “I really appreciate that and I was surprised and ecstatic for him.”
“So much excitement for Gavin. This is just one more example of all the things that the White Sulphur School system has done to make him feel more like one of the kids on the team,” said Gavin’s dad, Vance Voldseth.
It’s clear that this small community loves Gavin, and he brings joy to everyone he meets.
“Gavin is positive. He’s somebody that when you see him, you can’t help but smile,” said Novark. “He’s such a positive spot to our school and our community. It’s a blessing to us for him to come on the football field with us.”
“Our entire community just really loves Gavin, he is such a sweet kid,” said Barfuss. “He lights up a room. When he walks in, you know it. What a bright spot in the day for everybody that meets Gavin.”
“I thought it was really awesome. Gavin is a really good kid. He walks down the hallways, cheers, and says hi to everyone,” said Dawson Clayton, student body president and running back for the varsity WSS football team. “It makes the school a happier place.”