Siblings, Seahawks and The Schneiders

Wondering about the title? 

Well, this story really starts about three weeks ago. So let's start there.

My husband Jeff’s birthday was coming, on August 25th, and I knew the one thing he wanted:  Football Tickets. And not just any ticket – no – he wanted to see the Kansas City Chiefs when they came to play at Quest Field against the Seattle Seahawks for the first time in nearly a decade. And by ‘tickets’ I mean tickets close enough to the field that Jeff can yell at the players and feel truly involved in the game. Last time we went, long before kids, he was yelling at the Chief's bench (I am sure they loved him for this…) and as a player named Snoop Minnis came off the field, Jeff yelled, “HEY SNOOP! You’re under-rated in Madden!” Which apparently Snoop appreciated and agreed with, because Jeff got a giant grin and a wave from him. Making every penny we’d spent on the tickets, well worth it.

Yes, these kind of tickets aren’t cheap. Nope. Not cheap. Close to $200 a piece. Which means, this is not a family event. It is a Mommy-Daddy event.

Which broke Nick’s heart.

You see, Nick loves football. LOVES football the way little boys love their dad. And since this little boy has a dad that loves football they spend their Sundays perched in front of the TV AND on the football field where Jeff has coached Nick’s flag football team for the last 4 seasons. Nick knows Jeff loves football – and it is something they have always shared. So, naturally, this little boy wanted to share that game with his dad. And he couldn’t.

Which broke Jeff’s heart. And mine.

But the reality is that we don’t always get what we want. I don’t have $1000 to spend just for tickets to take all of my kids to a professional football game. Plain and simple. Add to that Gabriel and Matt would NOT FOR THE LIFE OF THEM be able to sit through that much chaos and noise, let alone sustain interest in the actual game, it didn’t make sense to buy tickets for the kids. We talked about just buying Nick one, but really felt like we couldn’t justify taking JUST Nick to a game. Gabe would have his feelings hurt. Matt probably wouldn’t care, but Gabe, he would know.

So when the tickets came in the mail for Jeff’s birthday, Nick burst into tears and lay in his bed while I consoled him. I told him that I didn’t attend my first professional football game until I was 21 years old. And even then, my friend’s dad paid for the tickets. It was hard, but Nick handled it well until a few days later when Jeff opened his present.

Then tears and heartbreak again.

So last Saturday, when I sat down with my cold can of Diet Pepsi, and started reading the emails from the listservs that I follow, one from FEAT of Washington’s listserv was like a flashing NEON sign:

Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) of Washington is proud to offer:
2 SEAHAWKS Football tickets, 2 meal vouchers and a Parking pass to a family touched by autism for the next home game against the 49ers on Sept. 12th. If you have a child with autism or a sibling who is a SEAHAWKS fan, please contact me at your earliest convenience with a brief description of your family's unique circumstances.

I quickly wrote down all of the amazingly-great things Nick does for his brothers and entered him in the contest. Siblings of children with special needs often take on much larger roles in their families than average children, and at a much earlier age. This is true for Nick. Often Nick is left to ‘parent’ Matthew while I tend to Gabriel in times of crisis (which this year has given us more than average), he is expected to understand Gabriel’s needs, the amount of time and attention he receives, the amount of money we spend on therapy and private school, and he is expected to be mature enough to accept these things without question. And he is 6.

So, I sent the email off with high hopes, a full heart, and tears running down my face. I WANTED this for Nick. I WANTED this for him so badly…

And not two hours later, I got an email letting me know he’d been awarded the tickets.

You should’ve seen Nick’s face!  He was beside himself with excitement and so was Jeff. But truthfully, I think I was more excited than both of them combined.

So on Sunday Jeff and Nick left our house with grins stretched wide across their faces, in cool fall weather, dressed from head to toe in Seahawks gear, and excited to share this amazing experience with one another: Nick’s first football game.

I learned that the tickets were donated to FEAT of Washington personally by the General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks John Schneider and his wife Traci. They asked FEAT to find a family who was touched by Autism who could benefit from attending the game.

I am impressed that The Schneiders chose to give back directly to their local community.  They could've easily written a check to a national Autism charity, patted themselves on the back and moved on.  But they didn't.  They went to a small local charity, themselves, and asked that the tickets go directly to a local family.  It doesn't take a football expert to know that is a good play.

What I am sure they saw as a simple gesture of kindness will be forever remembered by our family. Because Nick got to just be a regular-every-day kid for a day. No worries about babysitting his little brother and no fear of what is going on with his older brother. Just football.

THANK YOU to FEAT of WA for continuing to support families on their journey with Autism through their many programs and dedicated parents and professionals.  You make a difference!

And a heartfelt THANK YOU to John and Traci Schneider for giving my son Nick the opportunity to do something that kids like him never take for granted: The opportunity to make memories alone with his dad.  If you are reading this, I'd love to thank you in person.  Maybe I will see you at the Chief's game -- I'll be in section 111, Row E, seats 5&6.  Just look for the guy in the Chief's jersey yelling video-game-themed comments at the bench.

If you are moved to leave a comment for the Schneiders please do so below.  I would love to show them how parents like us view those who are able to see how Autism affects our entire family.


Anonymous said...

WOW!!! that is a GREAT story and so well deserved for such an amazing kid. and good for the Seahawks! Maybe I can root for them sometime when they aren't playing my beloved Patriots...:-)

Jaimee said...

What an incredible story Hartley! YAY for Nick and YAY for making wonderful memories with his Daddy! Love it!

KDL said...

This is great! It looks like they had an awesome time together, and I bet Nick will remember that day with his Dad for a LONG time. Blessings on the Schneiders!

Hartley said...

Thanks for the comments ladies! Nick is still talking about the game, right down the details of each play, and took his tickte stubs to school on Monday. I think it was a hit! Amazing what just a small amount of kindness can do to change the life of someone!


Mich9 said...

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Schneider,
I wanted to thank you for being generous. With the simplest, unselfish gesture of 2 tickets, you made a FAMILY jump for joy. You gave them the opportunity to have a normal (albeit exciting) experience that for many families affected by autism is very rare. Thank you for giving Nick a memory that will last a lifetime!

Tammy said...

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Schneider;

First off - they couldn't have chosen a better kid to receive the tickets you so generously donated!

I have known Hartley and her family for several years - since we first had our similiar paths "bump" into each other. And you can't discount the significance of this gift!

Thank you on behalf of another family touched by Autism!


Patty O. said...

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Schneider,

I am so touched by your generosity to the Steiner family. I have a son with autism and I know how stressful that can be, especially on the siblings. I can't really explain it, but it means a lot to me when someone helps another person in the autism community. In a way, it gives me hope, even if I was a recipient of the generosity. Thank you for being so thoughtful!

Martianne said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is personal, yet not... a story that inspires kindness, impresses the importance of one-to-one time with kids and encourages all. Thank you, Harltey, for all you share and do. Thank you, Schneiders for choosing to go local, personal and choose a family that is so deserving. And to all, a challenge: What simple gesture or gift could you offer someone in your vicinity to keep the kindness moving along? It need not be football tickets - a smile, an open door, baked goods, babysitting, an ear... We all have something priceless to offer someone else!

Toni Taylor-Glenn said...

What an awesome story....a once in a lifetime experience for all of you...and one that Nick will treasure forever.

and to the Shcneider' have gone a long ways to restore faith in the essential goodness of mankind through random acts of kindness! Bless you! Such a relief from the "news". This is real people doing caring, compassionate things for others. I hope your cups are overflowing with joy.

Rory said...

I know nothing about American Football but if I did I know now I'd support the Seahawks. I love this story!

Hartley said...

Thank you all for leaving comments -- Nick is still buzzing about the game! He took the ticket stubs to his class to show his friends, and gives me 'lessons' on how 'real' football players do things. LOL He is definitely going to remember this forever. The Schneiders are awesome.


Brandi said...

sWhat an exciting treat for Nick, and what a gift you gave him by sending the email that eventually won him the tickets!

Adoption of Jane said...

I got Goosebumps!!! Awesome! Hooray Nick!!!!