Thanks to a unique bond between Lyndhurst High School's football players and an appreciative group of teens, the area's only Special Needs Super Bowl kicks off on Oct. 22.
The LHS varsity coaches will face members of the Special Angels recreation program in their second annual flag football game at the high school, with the varsity players guiding their young charges.
The game was originally scheduled for Monday, but weather forced organizers to reschedule.
Deborah Wertalik, president of the 13-year-old Special Angels program, promises an unforgettable event.
“The coaches will play, and the varsity football players who've served as their mentors will help the special needs boys," she said. "[LHS student] Sarah Madonna will sing the national anthem. The Golden Bear and the varsity cheerleaders will be there. The LHS band will play."
There will also be a presentation to the family of Fausto Arcentales, a Lyndhurst High School soccer coach who recently died.
Wertalik, whose organization also operates baseball and soccer leagues, was the catalyst for the big game
She'd previously convinced LHS Football Coach Rich Tuero to make her grandson, Tyler, who has autism, the team manager -- handing out water and rooting for the players.
Last year, she suggested a Big Brother-styled partnership.
Tuero jumped at the chance.
Pat Glover, who announces every LHS football game, became the driving force behind the program, which continues to thrive, Wertalik said.
The Special Angels -- who come from Bergen, Passaic, Hudson and Essex -- get tips from the high-school players on how to punt, pass and kick. They also wear jerseys and root for their mentors at home games.
To cap their season, the boys get to participate in their own "big dance," complete with introductions, beginning at 7 p.m. Monday. Arrival time: 6:15 p.m.
"This is not only a feel-good story," Wertalik told Daily Voice. "It's a story that brings hope acceptance and inclusion for our Special Needs population.
"It also provides inspiration to the high school students and staff members who participate."
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