So many headlines are hard to take nowadays, but this is not one.
This is a story about how the Avon Middle School Eagles are rising up.
Students are uplifting one of their own with down syndrome.
It’s the powerful story of what love and acceptance looks like in Avon.
13-year-old Ryan Lodge, the Avon Eagles basketball team’s manager, never saw it coming.
Coach Ben Hodge announced he was going to play!
Lodge makes every practice alongside his teammates who don’t have Down’s Syndrome.
Monday, Ryan learned at practice that he would be hitting the hardwoods himself in the next game.
A standing ovation from his teammates ensued.
On Monday night it was time to put on his game face.
The people who packed the bleachers at Avon Middle School chanted “WE WANT RYAN”!
From the bench, Ryan looked squarely into the camera of WKYC photojournalist Sean Forester and proclaimed, "I'm ready!"
In just minutes he had posted four points, two baskets that had the crowd on their feet.
Each time, Ryan, quick to run back to defense, found time to flap his arms to the crowd like the pros do to get fans on their feet.
He did it with a smile that could be seen a mile away.
"He encourages us so much. To the point that we want to do our best always," says teammate Austin Mitchell.
Monday was this Avon Eagle's night to soar.
He earned it.
“He’s always putting in hard work. During some practices we look over there and he's doing push ups or working on his shot. He’s just always working,” said teammate Sam Detillo.
The eagles handily won that game.
But in the end, it was true what they say;It really isn’t all about winning.
Camden Gendics plays for Amerhest.
His team, of course, came to win in Avon.
But he spoke for the team when he told Channel 3 News they left with something far more important than a 'W.'
"I feel like a winner because I helped a kid and he is probably never going to forget this moment in his life," said Gendics, sounder wiser than his years.
“When he scores you can't help but smile," Gendics adds.
In the locker room, Coach Hodge asked Ryan what he thought of the crowd that was going crazy for him.
One word from Ryan.
Everyone claps and Ryan adds, “It felt awesome."
The kid who had the crowd on their feet, the kid who's fans proclaimed their love for him on poster board.
This kid, passes the praise on to his teammates when he says,
"This team is awesome”.
Ryan Lodge, the Avon Eagle who leads by example, is a celebrity of sorts every day.
But Monday he was officially, unanimously the MVP.
As if there was any doubt, the cheering crowd waiting outside the locker room after the game confirmed it.
Ryan’s mom, Megan Lodge watched it all unfold, and told Channel 3 News, “All any parent ever wants is for their son or daughter to be accepted. This community has accepted and loved Ryan since he was 3-years-old," says Ryan’s mom.
Her eyes sprung a leak awhile ago, sitting in the stands, surrounded by nothing but love for Ryan.
Still teary eyed she says. "You know there is a lot of bad going on in the world and this proves that a community and teens can still be good people."
The Eagles won that game.
But in the locker room they didn’t even know the score when we asked.
At the buzzer, on February 26, 2018 compassion won.
Straight to #TheGoodStuff file with this one.