Dear Editor: I am writing as the parent of a special needs son, age 12, in (Richmond Hill) Middle School that has just been elected by his sixth grade classmates as “Homecoming Prince” during the recent festivities and football game on Oct. 13. I cannot tell you how moved my wife and I are that these children are as nurturing and supportive of Charlie Penn despite his obvious “differences.” He is very interactive and affectionate, but as we all know from the recent coverage of bullying that has led to horrible sadness and loss in communities elsewhere, children are not always as understanding and mature as these kids.
Charlie is not severely delayed, but has little awareness of the significance of the recognition he received when he was awarded the sash of “Prince.” What he DID respond to last night was all the cheers and the high fives from literally dozens of kids at the game. I’ll tell you, it brought tears to the eyes of this old ex-Marine and the rest of his family. Fame and notoriety are NON-ISSUES as far as he is concerned, but the affection and interaction he gets from his classmates is beyond heartwarming and a HUGE positive for any kid, let alone one that has the disability he has.
This wonderful tribute delivered so unexpectedly to our son is merely a reflection of the character and humanity of the children in his class and therefore to their upbringing and their community. I could not be more proud of all of them, and words can never describe the appreciation for these children and the schools for the superb, unexpectedly warm environment Charlie has the good fortune to grow up in.
In times when integrity and honor seem to be lost concepts in our country, these kids can serve as models and hope for the future; their parents should be proud!