Centennial Middle School varsity softball coach Geoffrey Redmond’s kindness to a teen has earned him an award from an international organization that advocates for people with special needs or disabilities.
TASH, a 40-year-old organization that fights for inclusion of severely disabled people, recently honored Redmond for giving an Ahwatukee couple’s 14-year-old foster daughter, Andrea Tacker, a chance on his team.
“Having never played sports of any kind, there wasn’t a chance of her making the team,” said Carol Ann Marusiak. “However, her coach, Geoffrey Redmond, made her the team manager,”
“Not only was it a great benefit for our daughter, but for the other girls on the team,” she added. “Our daughter saw what hard work it was to perform at this competitive level. Coach worked her hard and treated her like one of the team.”
Andrea has multiple disabilities and Marusiak didn’t think she’d make the team.
But Redmond “was very encouraging to her,” she said, noting “he treats her just like the other girls and works her hard: running, push-ups, stretching, loading and unloading equipment. She gets to wear the team uniform to school, wear the practice t-shirts, be in the team photos.”
Redmond’s efforts worked miracles for the teen, as Marusiak explained to TASH in nominating him for the award and praising him for his “truly life-changing” act.
“She has just blossomed,” Marusiak said. “She now has 15 friends to hang out with at school, eat lunch with, go to the movies, and so on. Her confidence and self-esteem improved. Her team mates got to know a girl they may not have had the opportunity to hang out with. They got to see that she is just a ‘regular’ kid who wants to have friends.”
“This is the first time in her life (she is) able to do things with friends,” Marusiak wrote. “She is walking on cloud nine. This is also a teaching opportunity for the girls. Coach has told them, ‘You don’t know what a bad day is.’ and the girls realize that our daughter’s struggles will be lifelong.”
Marusiak added, “More coaches should reach out to this community and encourage the kids to be team managers. We think it will help stop bullying and create understanding of special needs kids.”
TASH gave Redmond its annual June Downing Community Support Award.
“The award is given to a person whose work has positively impacted the inclusion of a student(s) and/or an adults(s) who has moderate to severe disabilities, along with demonstrating the vision of creating an inclusive community,” the organization said.
Founded in 1975, TASH advocates for human rights and inclusion for people with significant disabilities and support needs – those most vulnerable to segregation, abuse, neglect and institutionalization.
It says its mission is “to advance inclusive communities through advocacy, research, professional development, policy, and information and resources for parents, families and self-advocates. The inclusive practices TASH validates through research have been shown to improve outcomes for all people.”