As a child, I loved to watch football alongside the grown-ups. Often, I started by asking “Which color are we?” Games came with the excitement of party food and activity. Football provided the rare moment when grownups explained something they actually liked to talk about.
I adopted easily the habit of yelling encouragement or calling out errors spontaneously at the television. This practice which at any other moment in life would be socially unacceptable enthralled me.
On a recent Saturday, when our Cornhuskers were pulling ahead and then holding on to their first win of the season, I jumped up and down, yelled, hooped and hollered, even though I was in a hotel room putting on makeup and rushing around with rollers in my hair.
We were in Denver for the “Be Beautiful, Be Yourself” fashion show. My son, Marcus, was getting ready in the “green room” as he was one of several models prepping to walk on the runway before an audience of about 1500. I texted him score updates, redundantly, because he was also following from his phone.
Football, at its best, is about community and fellowship, celebration, and the drive to improve. Although fans participate actively in the fellowship and celebration. We are mere witnesses to the player’s discipline, development, and progress, and yet, there are many lessons that translate to any team and leadership position.
While I was still euphoric about the big Cornhusker win, I arrived at the Gala event to be greeted by several Broncos Cheerleaders. There were Broncos everywhere! Football players, cheerleaders, and fans.
Perhaps since hosted in Denver, that’s to be expected, however, this Global Down Syndrome Foundation event also drew attendees from nine countries and across the US. In fact, we are proud to be part of the “Nebraska Contingent” of the last few years. This time, there were three Omaha area models rocking the runway, Louis Rotella IV, Walt Snodgrass, and as I mentioned, my son, Marcus Sikora.
The event showcases a celebrity line-up to rival any red-carpet, including Colin Farrell, Heather Graham, John C McGinley, and many more. Plus, as mentioned, several Denver Bronco players including Von Miller, Case Keenum, and several additional players and cheerleaders.
Marcus was delighted to walk the runway with the self-advocate Destiny Weldon, and the Bronco’s kicker Brandon McManus.
During the red-carpet interviews that preceded the fashion show, Bronco’s running-back Phillip Lindsay, set the right tone, “This is number one important. This is more important than a football game.”
He’s so right. In addition to being fabulous and extremely celebratory, this gala is the largest single fundraiser for Down syndrome research in the world. Also, it’s worth noting that the research and medical advancements done with the funds from this event affect not only those with Down syndrome, but also benefits research and treatments for diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. For real.
This 10-year anniversary event raised $2.4 million for medical research, education, and advocacy and the Broncos in the room helped to make this happen. Even off the field, this team exemplified community, fellowship, and a quest for progress.
As in each year previous, several celebrities commented on how much they learned from the true stars of the show, the self-advocates who strutted the runway. Everyone in the hall cheered and celebrated the lives of people with Down syndrome both on and off the stage. I love this night.
Marcus told me that while they lined during the finale he yelled, “Go Broncos!” Looks like from now on Sundays we’ll be rooting for the orange team.
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