By Kevin Eickman
Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens (DFRC), is an organization that was established in 1956 to raise funds and enrich the lives of Delawareans with disabilities. While most Delawareans are familiar with the annual Blue-Gold football game, many are not aware of the year round efforts by the DFRC.
The Haggerty family of Milford are just one of the families that have changed the lives of many throughout Delaware through the DFRC program. Each year, Ann and Billy Haggerty’s son Justin is a DFRC buddy for a former Milford football player who has or will play in the Blue-Gold game. Talking with the Haggerty’s about Justin, it is easy to see how much the DFRC program means to them.
“Every year Justin makes new friends, friends that last a lifetime,” commented Ann Haggerty. “These are fantastic young men, that are simply fantastic.” Justin has been in the buddy program for five years, and Ann marvels at the results. “The most amazing part of it is watching the participants interact with their buddies and the transformation that takes place,” she added. “They both get so much out of it, it’s wonderful to see.”
This year Justin’s new buddy is Milford quarterback Nick Jefferson. In a season that saw the Buccaneers struggle to a 3-7 finish, their quarterback provided leadership worthy of praise. Being named to Blue-Gold is a very special honor, an honor not lost on Jefferson.
“This is a very special for me, it is a privilege to be named to represent Milford in football for Blue-Gold,” said Nick. Jefferson has known who Justin is for a while, even met him on occasion, and is looking forward to getting to know him better. “Justin looks to be a great kid, I have spoken to him on the phone and can’t wait to start being his buddy.”
Planing on studying special education in college, Jefferson sees this opportunity as a cause near to his heart. “I think that this is where my future lies,” Jefferson said. Jefferson’s grandfather, Earl Francis played in the very first Blue-Gold game, representing Archmere Academy in 1956.“I think it’s great that I am going to play in the same game as my grandfather, it just makes it that much more special.”
While Jefferson may be the latest to represent Milford, he is not the first. Milford graduate Ryan Deeney, who is completing his senior year at Wilkes University, offered a wonderful accounting of what being a buddy means to him “The DFRC Blue/Gold all-star game was an incredible experience and about so much more then the game of football,” commented Deeney. “Spending time with Justin was a truly humbling experience that I often think and reminisce about. One of my fondest memories of Justin was during a t-ball game leading up to Blue-Gold, that young man had me running all over the field with him. It was a pleasure to spend time with Justin and the Haggerty family because Justin is full of energy, excitement, and joy.”
Talking with Billy Haggerty about raising Justin, his answer leaves a deep impression.“The one thing about Justin having Down’s Syndrome, is that he looks at people the way we should all look at each other,” stated Haggerty. “Justin doesn’t see race, creed or color. All he sees is a person who he wants to be his friend. Maybe if more people looked at everyone that way, this would be a better place.”
The DFRC Blue-Gold Sussex Auction will be hosted this year in the Clubhouse at BayWood Green in Long Neck, Sussex County. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by contacting Ann Haggerty at 302-363-7371 or Dan Tidwell at 302-644-6630.