To most people it may not seem like a big deal that two junior high aged brothers got to play a game of football together. But for 13 year old Connor Benton and his 10 year old brother Cole Tuesday October 3 was a big day. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and Cole Benton has Down syndrome.
“I have a child with special needs, but I don’t think of him that way. I just think of him as special,” said Michelle Benton, mother of Cole and Connor.
Michelle considered it a privilege to have her two boys finally playing football together in a real game. Her husband, Craig Benton, coaches youth football in Eaton Rapids. They thought it was finally time to see their boys playing on the same field. Craig coordinated the game with Matt Rhode, the coach for the 8th grade boys football team in Olivet.
Although Cole’s role in the game was running a few plays at the end, Michelle and Craig and the rest of the family consider it a blessing to witness Connor the quarterback handing off the ball to his younger brother so he can run it to the end zone. Cole was the star offensive player, the Olivet boys played their defense, the cheerleaders shouted Cole’s name, and the Benton family watched proudly as Cole scored.
Beyond the hype of a few minutes of football action, the game had even more significance for the Bentons. Michelle and Craig lost their oldest son Cody about a year ago. Seeing their sons out on the field together was a reminder of the hope and joy that exists in their family after that tragedy.
The game, as well as Down Syndrome Awareness Month, was also a reminder of the great happiness and promise the family has with Cole. Children with Down syndrome are capable of so much more than they’re often given credit for.
“We shouldn’t treat them differently than we do any other child,” said Michelle. “I think it’s really important to teach kids, but to also remind adults that they’re just like everybody else. They are special.”
Cole still expresses excitement about the game in his own way, and it’s a moment he and Connor and the rest of the Benton family won’t soon forget.