By Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller - OSV Newsweekly, 7/17/2011
School nurse Elizabeth Paquette got a desperate call from a stranger last September when she was in her office at Malden Catholic High School in Melrose, Mass.
Patty Parker needed someone to carry her disabled son up the steps every evening. The nurse who usually helped was leaving, and they were having difficulty finding fill-ins.
Someone had to carry Sammy, 8, down from the second floor in the morning and back up at night. Her husband, Rick, had recently undergone cardiac surgery and could no longer manage the 78-pound boy.
“Don’t worry,” Paquette said. “I’ll find somebody.”
The first student who came to mind was Rudy Favard, captain of the football team at the all-boys school.
“He is so generous of heart and spirit and so quick to offer help,” she told Our Sunday Visitor.
Paquette told Rudy about the Parkers’ dilemma.
“I can do that,” he said. “It’s no big deal.” He later told OSV, “She’s like a mother to me. If your mom needs a favor, how can you say ‘no’?”
Paquette recruited a few other students who might help, and they met at the Parkers’.
“When the screen door opened, there was Patty and Rick with tears running down their faces,” Paquette said. “They couldn’t believe that we had come.”
Thus began a relationship that helped the Parkers and enriched Rudy’s life.
“Sammy reaffirms to me that by the grace of God, we do what we do, and if he gives you an ability, you have to take advantage of it,” Rudy said.
The story of Rudy Favard and the Parker family is the subject of a short documentary, “A Simple Act” by Greg Shea, that will air Aug. 18 on PBS in the Boston area. Visit www.14steps.org for more information.
Rudy, 18, is the youngest son of Rose and Joseph Favard, Haitian immigrants, whom he credits with instilling values in him. The Favards are Baptist but wanted a Catholic education for their sons. Rudy attended Malden on a partial scholarship from the Catholic Schools Foundation; it also gave him a $5,000 college scholarship.
“What I respect most about the Catholic Church is the universality,” he said. “They are helping kids like me, not because we are Catholic, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
Sammy’s twin brother, Ben, is healthy, but Sammy was born with cerebral palsy. He can’t sit up, is blind and is fed through tube. The Parkers care for him at home with visiting health care services, and Rick lifted and carried him until his surgery. They have no extended family and can’t always fill the gaps in assistance.
It was a problem to get him up the winding stairway, so their pediatrician suggested they call Paquette, her friend.
Rudy helped the Parkers four nights a week; when he wasn’t available, a couple of other students or Paquette and her husband filled in.‘A salve to their pain’
Helping Sammy goes beyond volunteering. Rudy is like a big brother to Ben and is close with Rick and Patty as well. And Sammy always reacts with excitement when Rudy arrives.
But everything is changing. Rudy graduated from Malden and will study marketing and play football at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. The Parkers are looking for a one-story home so they won’t need to carry Sammy upstairs.
“I really hope that they get the handicap-accessible house they need,” Rudy said. “That’s my prayer for them and that will help me to sleep better when I’m away at school.”
Rudy shrugs off the attention he has received, but Paquette credits him with being “a salve to their pain” when the Parkers needed him. “I think that what he does puts a face and an action to what is expected of our Catholic school students all across the country,” she said. “He represents his family, his faith and his school very well.”
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.
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