Bennett Bair has mild cerebral palsy, but his coaches elevated him to player status.
The young men of the Lake Braddock High School varsity lacrosse team showed one of their own how much he means to them by making him a captain for this game.
“This is a very special night,” head coach Steve Price said to his players in the locker room. “This is a night we’re never going to forget.”
On this night, on one of the last home games of the year, Bair, wearing his No. 16 jersey, joined the team on the field.
His special needs prevent him from playing high school sports, but four years ago, Coach Price found a spot for him as team manager.
“It gave him a role of I’m going to take care of my boys just like other high school kids do,” he said. “These are my boys. These are my buddies. I’m going to take care of them.”
“They’ve embraced him just as he’s embraced them, and just to see his development and how he matured over the years has just been phenomenal,” said Bennett’s father, Art.
We brought you Bennett’s story three years ago. Back then, he was especially shy, but has come a long way.
What does it feel like to suit up?
“Exciting,” he told us. “I’ve been doing this for four years so it’s pretty fun.”
“A lot of people look at him and say, ‘Oh, that’s the team’s trainer, he’s their water boy,’ but when we look at him, he’s our friend, our teammate and an integral part of this team,” said Lake Braddock teammate Chris Gilmore.
Now 19 years old, Bennett suited up with his teammates and took his place in line as they walked to the field.
A bagpiper played while the team walked. It was a special touch to celebrate Coach Price’s 40 years as head coach. But the focus largely remained on Bennett.
“He saw the jersey and the helmet and his eyes just lit up,” said Tyler Stewart. “We always see him in the hallway and he’s always talking to us and he’s always saying hi.”
For the first time, Bennett stepped away from the sidelines to midfield for the captain’s coin toss. He called it and won the toss.
Bennett has also won the hearts of everyone he has touched at Lake Braddock High School.
Maybe it is no coincidence the weather cleared to allow Bennett his chance to be captain for a night.
The team also prevailed in this game — winning by a score of 11-7.