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January 12, 2013

Fulfilling Dreams

They ended by crossing the goal line as a group, each finishing another Dream Season with a touchdown before getting showered with confetti and launching into their best touchdown dances as Purdue's band played its fight song.

The celebration was absolutely necessary.

It was the Dream Bowl, after all, the conclusion to the Dream Season's non-contact football camps for individuals with intellectual disabilities that are held at Indiana high schools and Purdue.

Kurt Freytag and Dolapo Macarthy were in the middle of the mayhem, Boilermakers who have quickly become leaders in the Purdue events for the non-profit organization.

Macarthy actually excited the melee wrapped in streamers of all colors and had kids continue to pile them on.

That was fine with him.

"I'm a big kid out here," Macarthy, a redshirt sophomore receiver, said with a wide smile. "It's been so much fun. The kids and the adults just want to come out and have fun and they enjoying spending time with us, and we enjoy spending time with them as well. It's a really fun time."

Freytag was selected as the "team captain" for the collegiate portion of Dream Season by executive director Chris Oppy and has led three events so far and attended five of them.

Former team captain Kurt Lichtenberg suggested Freytag for the role, and the physical education major has been a perfect fit.

"I've taken an adapted physical education class where I've done PALS camp and stuff, so I've been dealing with people who have disabilities before. There's never greater satisfaction than hanging out with them," Freytag said. "They really put a smile on your face. When I got involved with Dream Season with Lichtenberg, I loved it.

"All the people who come, they remember the players. They'll come and give us hugs. I already remember pretty much everyone's name that comes every time. It's awesome."

The feeling seems to be mutual.

The participants, male and female from 12 years old into adulthood, were rotating between stations on Purdue's practice field inside Mollenkopf. They had a chance to punt, kick, throw, catch, run, dive through would-be tacklers onto a mat and run through tackling dummies before celebrating with a touchdown dance. All while being serenaded by music from Purdue's pep band.

Mary Ann Grove has been bringing son Chris, now 21, to Dream Season camps since its inception. She's grateful for the interaction and the activity.

"These people look up to these players as their heroes," she said, "and relate to them because if they watch football and look at their number, they know who they are on the field. Plus, it gets them a chance to be able to do some of the things that they can't do."

Just years ago for Chris, that was catching a ball or throwing it. But on Saturday, clad in a black No. 33 jersey with "Anthrop" on the back, Chris stuck passes into the middle compartment of the large net for passing drills at least four times, including twice in a row.

After each successful toss, he threw his arms straight in the air and jumped up and down. He turned his celebration into some jumping jacks, even, with a Purdue player at the station.

"He gets so excited," mom Mary Ann said smiling. "It's absolutely wonderful and the players are so nice to them. They include them and call them by name. They're very polite. It's quite nice of them to give of their time to do this. The community needs to know about this."

At each station, players were engaged.

Senior-to-be Rob Henry was helping some kids throw passes in large bins, chatting with each one who came through.

Eric McDaniel was quick to extend a hand and help up participants who crashed through for a touchdown on the mat, and then Raheem Mostert encouraged them to do their best touchdown dance.

Members of the Goldusters even got into the act, passing their pom poms to some kids and dancing with them while the band played and stopping by each station to chat with participants.

Austin Appleby always had his hand up to offer high-fives for kids and adults who had weaved through tackling dummies and then broke through tackles of Andy Garcia and Carlos Carvajal for a TD. By the end of the 90 or so minutes, that station turned into the loudest, as Appleby, Carvajal, Garcia, Brandon Cottom, Kevin Pamphile and Freytag formed a circle around the touchdown-scorer to join in the dancing.

About 30 Purdue players were at the event, and they finished it by lining up to sign autographs and take pictures with participants.

And they left with smiles and full hearts.

"I did this last year, and you're starting to see familiar faces and you start to get know these kids better, and they're just awesome people," Macarthy said. "They're just like we are. They have big, bright personalities and they're just so much fun and want to have fun, and that's the way I am.

"They grow on you and you build relationships with these people because they're so much fun and they're so loving. It just rubs off on you, and there's such a great positive energy in the building whenever these kids come in. It's nothing but love. I really enjoy it, and I just want them to enjoy it."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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