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Compassion the true spirit of Notre Dame

Letter to the Editor | Sunday, September 21, 2008

When my autistic son was severely depressed, I called on Maura and Charlie Weis for support. My son is a huge Notre Dame fan. His grandfather taught here and I graduated from Notre Dame. When I told my son the new coach and his wife had a special needs daughter named Hannah, he listened. I told him, you need to look at the Hannah and Friends Web site with me.The Weis family is going to change our community, especially how people view people with different abilities, as Maura Weis so fondly refers to them. Coach Weis took time out of his hectic schedule, (because his wife asked him to) to boost the morale of a lost autistic young man who was caught in between two worlds. He is so high functioning, that he longed to be that neurotypical honor role student on the high school football team. That autumn day, my son no longer was autistic; he had only abilities – to be one-on-one with Coach Charlie Weis, his mentor.Yes, I believe they got the right coach to do the job. No doubt in my mind. The University should be proud that sometimes it’s not always about football or getting the perfect job. It is about education, compassion, making the world a better place to live, uniting racial differences and educating the poor and the mentally challenged.So whether the Irish are up or down on their luck, when you paint your body blue and green or wear the Golden Dome on your head, you are also celebrating the spirit of a much bigger picture which I believe is what Notre Dame is all about. The Weis’ are building a home for our true unsung heroes and heroines, who cannot make a life for themselves, go to college or even some who cannot even wash their own bodies. The Weis family is building them a home in which they can grow old and fill their time with fun things to do, surrounded by love every day. They will be respected, cared for and celebrated. If you spend time with these gentle souls, you will learn more about God, Heaven and why you are fortunate enough to share the planet with them. They only know love and want to be your friend. Unfortunately, they have learned fear, cruelty and indifference.Yes, I believe they got the right Coach to do the job. No doubt in my mind. The true Spirit of the Irish is in helping those who cannot help themselves. One day you may give birth to a Downs baby, or your son or daughter will be confined to a wheelchair from an auto accident. My education from the University of Notre Dame and from my parents helped me deal with what I thought was a tragedy. I educated myself on autism and tried everything possible to help my son make sense of our world. I see what a true blessing my son is. I am honored God chose me to help raise an angel, against the odds. I did win overall.

Katherine Robinson Colemanalumclass of 1978Sept. 19