Formerly "Neil Stone Updates"

Friday, June 19, 2009

Congratulations and Thank You to the BRHS Class of 2009

Dr. Riccobono told the seniors at their graduation practice Thursday morning that the ceremony wasn't really for them--it was for their parents. He was trying to impress upon them that pranks and jokes during the program would be a disservice to attending loved ones, but he had said the same thing to me earlier when I thanked him for making it possible for Neil to be involved. I wasn't sure how much he would be getting out of the event, but I knew that Scott and I would be touched, as we already were by the support Neil was being given throughout the graduation practice proceedings.

Neil had been showing some signs
of unusual (for him) anticipation about his big day. A few times already he had volunteered that he couldn't believe he was graduating--just the kind of comment any 18-year old would make as he approached this mile stone. I was feeling hopeful that amidst all the confusion of black robes and processionals, Neil would actually be moved by the significance of this day.

Nothing could have prepared him or me for what actually happened last night. As we sat through the rapid readings of the 691 names, I tried to decide if I should shout or cheer as Neil's name came up. What if I were sitting near the family of the next graduate in line and they couldn't hear their own child's name because I was making such a to-do? I decided a quick clap and woohoo wouldn't hurt if I started at the same time his name was read. My heart beating in anticipation, I no sooner began my tiny hoopla when the gymnasium erupted. Every student on the floor stood up simultaneously and cheered for Neil. Even the audience in the bleachers began to stand. Names were halted for nearly thirty seconds (an eternity for me) as his ovation was given.

I don't know that I have ever been so moved by an event. The outpouring of love and support for our son amazes me even now as I sit here typing and remembering that moment. Apparently students had preplanned this, but I was not aware of it. Dr. Riccobono, who was helping Neil maneuver back to his seat, stopped him and pointed out the amazing spectacle. A huge, incredulous grin lit up Neil's face as he turned to see the crowd. As soon as he got back to his seat, he pulled out his phone to ask me why his classmates had done that. Before my slow fingers could text back, a friend had already answered him. "Because you're awesome," is what he said. I had to agree.

Thank you again, to any and all who participated in Neil's recognition. Thanks to all the school personnel who assisted Neil on his special night. Thanks too, to friends and classmates who stepped in when needed. I have not seen that young man smile that much since January. I know we haven't felt this good for a long, long time.
P.S. If anyone happens to have a copy of a video of Neil's special moment, we'd love to see it. We were caught unprepared that night!

Update:  Here's a link to a video.


Anonymous said...

I'm still tearing up when I think about all the kids CHEERING! for Neil. Even though my son Teddy also graduated last night, I clapped and was proud of him, but I cried and Cheered for Neil. Thank You Neil, you will never know how much you mean to people and how, since the accident I tell my son every day how much I love him and never take things for granted any more. Congratulations!!!

Molly said...

I am totally crying right now. What an awesome night for him. His peers are awesome, glad they made it such a special night that Neil will never forget. Love the pictures!

Artie's Aunt Nancy said...

Believe me, it was with great pride that I had the honor of watching my nephew Artie graduate tonight. But, to be honest, it paled in comparison to the chills, goosebumps and tears I had when I watched Neil walk, on his own, to accept his diploma as the entire class of over 700 and EVERY person in attendance rose to cheer him on!
But God....I know He has a great plan for this kid.
Way to go Neil!!!! I cannot even imagine how overwhelmed and proud you were!
We have some video - will try and get you a copy.

krahsnr88 said...

What an awesome day for all of you!!!
I get chills just reading this post tonight. You all have such a wonderful supportive community. All the best to Neil as he approaches his next educational step. But for this weekend, party on........
Love, The Roberg's

Anonymous said...

What a testimony of the tremendous influence for good Neil has made in so many lives! Thank you for being so willing to share Neil's story with everyone and helping us all become better for it.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of Neil's classmates, and I got the text message from the person that organized the whole ovation, and I wasn't exactly sure how it would turn out and how many people had actually gotten the message. When the entire senior class stood up at once and cheered and applauded, I was nothing short of blown away. Neil has the greatest supporters, and he should know that he's never alone. He's got a lot of people cheering for him all the time, including me. May he continue to stay strong and God be with him.

Debbie C said...

My son also graduated Thursday. I also witnessed everyone's kindness escorting Neil, and was especially touched by Dr. Riccobono's sheparding. I saw Neil turn to see his classmates applauding. I saw his real honest to goodness, spontaneous smile! Although I cheered for my son, I cried for Neil! Ryan said he got about 50 text messages that day reminding him to was an awesome gesture for an awesome friend. I am so pleased Neil was happy, and that you were all suprised!

HMStammler said...

What an amazing loving gesture by so many!! God is good! Congratulations to Neil and all of his classmates!!

Meredith said...

I was at Girl's Camp last week and knew in the back of my mind all week that friday was the big night. Neil - we love you and we were smiles year from ear, all us girls, as we looked at your pictures from your graduation night. Of course there was a standing ovation for Neil - I couldn't imagine anything less for the boy in the banana suit who has inspired so many to laugh, and then to cry, pray, laugh again and cheer.