Kaleb Schaffner is obsessed with football even though he’s never played the game. The Hilltop middle school student is confined to his wheelchair and can not speak because of a debilitating battle with cerebral palsy. While the disease has kept him from playing the game, he still loves it because he spent much of his youth watching his older brother Austin compete for Hilltop and his Toledo area high school.
Now Schaffner watches his middle school classmates take on their Ohio sixth grade schedule, stationed on the sideline as a psuedo Hilltop team manager even while he’d rather be on the field. On Saturday he finally got his chance during a game at West Unity Middle School, with the two teams collaborating to ensure that Schaffner would get a clean run at the end zone.
Pushed by his brother, Kaleb Schaffner was given the ball some 60 yards away from the end zone and sped right to pay dirt with players and fans from both teams cheering him all the way.
While there’s no doubt that Kaleb was inspired and excited by the experience, his parents may have been even more touched by the gesture.
“I was crying the whole time. I was so proud. I was just so proud of everybody,” Kaleb’s mother, Vicki Schaffner, told Toledo Fox affiliate WTOL.
Schaffner’s coach was just as proud, particularly after he tried to put things in perspective for his student athletes during his pre-game speech.
“One of the things I told our team before the game today is don’t take this for granted,” Hilltop football coach Shawn Blaisdell told WTOL. “There’s a lot of people out there, Kaleb, and other kids and adults that would love to go do this.”