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15 year old Whalyn Ward 'a real celebrity' as the life of Joliet athletics

Whalyn Ward.png
Posted at 3:10 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 17:28:31-05

Joliet's Ward family has been dealt some curveballs through the years.

Hal and Janice are parents to five boys, though the eldest, Trey, passed away in 2017 from Batten’s disease. Their youngest, Whalyn, also has been diagnosed with Batten’s disease, which is an rare genetic disorder that can attack cognitive development, vision impairment and cause epilepsy.

Whalyn hasn’t had his sight since he was about 5 years old but can still see things such as Christmas lights and fireworks via peripheral vision.

He’s really your normal 15 year old who loves going to school and singing Taylor Swift, but he’s also quite the prankster.

“Whalyn has a special note at the Carbon County Sheriff's Department. They always know when he's checking in," mother Janice Ward said.

"What do you do at school?" Janice asked Whalyn, who replied, "Fart machine!"

"Basically someone is always in on it with Whalyn. They strap it to a chair, behind a book or on a desk somewhere. When Whalyn walks through the halls he can push a button in his pocket and the fart machine will go off," Janice said.

During J-Hawk sporting events, Whalyn is likely to be found igniting the Joliet faithful alongside cheerleaders or even singing the national anthem. To say he’s become quite popular may be an understatement.

“We have made that a priority where he is with his peers. He is a real celebrity at school. If Whalyn is missing, they're always wondering what's going on or where he is or what he's doing. The school does an amazing job. They really do a good job with him," Janice said.

Janice has high praise for the kids and families in Joliet that have surrounded the Ward family with love through the years. She believes the lives of Trey and Whalyn have also impacted her sons Gunnar, Hayden and Graidy in a profoundly positive way.

“With them being exposed to Trey and dealing with the hardest part of the whole thing, they actually have fun dealing and spending time with Whalyn, because they know the future, as well. I am positive it's going to make them really good fathers and husbands, because this is hard. This isn't easy every day. They have been molded to be really good mentors, and Whalyn has helped them with that," Janice said.

Janice says the progression of Whalyn’s condition isn’t nearly as fast as Trey's, who Joliet now has a memorial scholarship for, and that he’ll continue to be the life of the party around J-Hawk athletics.

To learn more about Batten’s disease, click here.