A day of softball and competition turned into one of community and togetherness to honor a 3-year-old boy.
Gross Catholic High School’s varsity softball team put down its bats Oct. 12 to walk two laps around the field for Noah Jacobson, coach Michala Jacobson’s 3-year-old son who has Down syndrome.
The walk, organized by Gross’ athletic director Mike Dempsey, was to make up for Michala’s absence in the Omaha Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk and Family Festival that same day.
On Oct. 12, Gross’ softball team played Northeastern Nebraska in a best 2-out-of-3 series.
“Originally, our softball district championship series was supposed to be on that Friday [Oct. 11], but because of the weather that week, all the district championship games got moved to Saturday,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson’s family, including her husband, Chris, and three daughters, Ashley, Emily and Rachel, attends the walk each year in support of their team, Noah’s Ark.
This year, Noah’s Ark raised more than $2,000 toward programming for the Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands.
Jacobson mentioned the walk to Dempsey, which she and her family have attended since Noah was born, and how she was sad to miss it.
“It’s always fallen during softball season, so we’ve either been there or had to leave for a game,” she said.
“My family has really helped with Noah and have been there for him, because they know how important softball is for me.”
Dempsey responded to that conversation by making calls.
“I started kicking the idea around with other people to do something here,” he said. “[The other team] was on board and were excited about doing it.”
The Gross Catholic community and opposing team rallied together to make signs, order balloons and bring a walk to the field. The NEN team even made Noah’s Ark T-shirts.
Dempsey said it was a “no-brainer” to organize the walk.
“At that time, she was being very unselfish knowing she couldn’t do the walk,” he said. “I realized this was something that was very important to her.”
Dempsey said he had to break the news to Jacobson before the event, which brought them both to tears.
Gross’ entire team, including Jacobson’s daughter, Rachel; the NEN team; and the crowd all wore Team Noah yellow T-shirts to honor the 3-year-old.
Along with that, mother and son’s family, who were originally going to the Omaha walk, showed up to celebrate.
Jacobson said she was happy to see Noah on the field surrounded by the team, who have formed a close bond with him over the years.
“Noah was in great spirits and loved seeing everyone,” she said. “He really enjoyed it.”
Dempsey said the best part of the day was the community involvement.
“It was great way to show support for not only Michala, but Noah and the family,” he said. “It wasn’t just me. It was a lot of people who realized all the care Michala has for her softball team and her kids.”
Jacobson said she was grateful for the walk.
“Mr. Dempsey did a great job at organizing a surprise walk,” she said.
“It was really special because it just shows what a great community we have here at Gross Catholic and the support and love.
“It was so much more than just softball for our players and program — it was about family first.”