This past Friday, third-grader Noah is playing as a prison warden as McKeon and he play “jailbreak,” and then some bingo.
Earlier they huddled over a mobile device and watched the just-released “Avengers” movie trailer together, sharing their love of Marvel superhero movies.
Their friendship started years ago, when Noah was tethered 24/7 to an oxygen tank. But that didn’t keep the two from bonding during weekly visits with Pi Kappa Phi men to the Hamilton school.
The college men and teachers in the special needs program showed their support for Noah’s health challenges by creating T-shirts with the boy’s motto “every day is a good day” printed on the back.
But it’s Miami senior McKeon who knows any day he gets to visit his young friend is a good one.
“Noah is very special to me,” said McKeon, who is a finance and accounting double major. “He is a great friend of mine and we hang out and do things … like talking together about Marvel characters.”
It’s a simple and winning formula for Noah, boosting his confidence and adding joy to his now full recovery from his transplant operation, said Angela Henson, Hamilton Schools physical therapist and one of the coordinators of the elementary’s “Fraternity Friday” gatherings.
“Noah is a tremendous young man … and he has developed a very special relationship with the fraternity members,” said Henson. “Noah has been participating in this program for the past several years … during that time he has really grown and he is much more outgoing.”
“We’ve seen more interaction with the (Miami) boys and we’ve seen less anxiety and more independence and he has developed a sense of pride … in that period of time,” she said.
The program has drawn local praise and national attention that resulted in a $2,500 grant from the nationwide Pi Kappa Phi Philanthropy for the fraternity to pass on to the Bridgeport special needs student program.
Special needs teachers at the school have used the money to buy toys and devices uniquely designed to help children with their range of challenges.
Hamilton Schools Spokeswoman Joni Copas said the unusual program is a good example of one of its win-win partnerships with Miami University, which also has a regional campus in Hamilton.
“It’s great for the students to interact with older people and it’s nice to have fresh faces come in,” said Copas. “It helps the students with their social skills. What’s really refreshing is that the Miami students enjoy it as much as our students.”