Palatine, Barrington teams come together for boy with Rett syndrome
Soon, Madden Manz will be celebrating his fifth birthday.
Part of his present will be entering the field next week with the Palatine football team during its Homecoming game against Barrington. He'll also be part of the pregame coin toss.
Why the special treatment?
Manz, who uses a wheelchair, is a special kid, and the Palatine and Barrington football teams have taken a special interest in him.
"Madden wasn't supposed to live beyond age 2," Palatine football coach Corey Olson said. "We've coupled with Barrington on a fundraiser for him."
Manz, who lives in Barrington, suffers from a rare health condition called Rett syndrome, a postnatal neurological disorder caused by a gene mutation.
His father Jeff is a teacher at Palatine and a former Palatine football coach, and his mother Jenna is a teacher at Barrington.
According to the Mayo Clinic, infants with Rett syndrome seem healthy during their first six months, but over time, they rapidly lose coordination, speech, and use of the hands.
There's no cure, but medications, physical and speech therapy, and nutritional support help manage symptoms, prevent complications, and improve quality of life.
"Jeff used to coach our wide receivers at Palatine and he knows that each year our team picks a cause to support. We've done breast cancer awareness in the past and we've worn pink socks, things like that," Olson said. "He said, 'How about doing Rett syndrome this year?' I guess Rett syndrome doesn't get much publicity or attention and it needs fundraising too."
So Palatine and Barrington, the home schools of the Manz family, have collaborated to sell a special tie-dye T-shirt that commemorates their Homecoming football game. The front of the shirt reads "Communities Unite2Fight Rett syndrome." And Madden's name is written at the top and there is a football in the middle.
The back reads "September 27, 2019 Homecoming. Barrington at Palatine."
The shirt is different shades of purple, which is the color for Rett syndrome.
Both teams may also wear purple socks if they can organize that in time for the game.
"When this was brought to my attention, it was a no-brainer for us to participate in this," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "I've known Jeff for a long time and if we can do anything to support Jeff and his family, we'll do it.
"We'll make sure those shirts are sold at our school and I'm sure our players will want to get in on that, too.
"I think you see this all the time in football with so many great causes. This is another example of our game giving awareness to some very serious and important issues in our community."
To purchase a Rett syndrome T-shirt prior to the game, contact either Palatine or Barrington high schools. Donations to benefit Rett syndrome research will also be accepted at the game next Friday.