ST. IGNATIUS — Immanuel Olson is 16 years old and non-verbal autistic. With childcare being difficult to find for a kid his age, his parents needed to find someone who could watch over him after he was out of school.
Immanuel’s cousin Jordann Underwood, who is also the manager of the Mission High School football team, suggested he should join her at practice.
“I noticed that the team just kind of really started accepting him when he came and they were really interactive with him, and he really enjoys it, brings a lot of joy in his life," Underwood said. "It’s definitely changed his mood overall, especially when he comes home he’s in a lot better mood and it’s really nice."
That change in behavior has been noticed by his parents who have been happy to see this change for the better. His mother, Valenda Underwood, reflected on her new morning routine with Immanuel.
“He definitely does not like anything that has to do with physical fitness, and he’s been racing down the driveway when his bus comes," she said. "He wants to race me from the door to catch the bus (and) see who wins."
The little things have made the biggest difference for Immanuel. From tossing and kicking the ball around to just standing and watching practice, he is an important part of the St. Ignatius football team.
“He’s a really special kid. ... He’s special to me personally, and it brings me up and makes me just want to win more because he’s always rooting us on,” said St. Ignatius lineman Codiak Killorn.