Fort Worth

A High School Football Game Helps Raise Awareness for Autism

It was a night of high school football at Sam Houston High School Wilemon Field in Arlington. It was almost like any other, except Thursday night was different for one of Arlington Bowie Volunteers coaches.

"I spend more time with these kids than my own kids," Arlington Bowie Football Coach Travis Dougherty said.

Thursday, both teams made sure to make the game about Dougherty's 6-year-old son Hunter. Hunter and his dad got a chance to lead the Volunteers onto the field.

"Just he gets to participate in something like this that he may never get to do you know it's a big deal," Dougherty said.

It's a big deal because Hunter, Travis' only child, is non-verbal autistic. To be able to experience this sports moment with him was an emotional milestone for him as a father.

"This is my chance to experience that and see my son take the field, although for short amount of time, but it's that feeling all dads know what I'm talking about."

They are taking this moment to raise awareness about autism. Travis started an organization called Hunter's Heroes. Many people in the stands were wearing shirts in support. It's a symbol and a message to all that see it. It's okay to be different.

"It means that everyone is their own person," supporter LeAnn Williams said. "Everyone has their own unique things about them that makes them special."

That support was shown on the opposite side of the gridiron too. The Marcus Marauder coaches wore Hunter's Heroes shirts in support. All the players wore the autism ribbon symbol on their helmets. To this father, their support means a future for his son.

"All the modern science and technology out there we still don't have all the answers," Dougherty said. "Bring awareness, bring funding to fund research and an opportunity to provide my son a better opportunity and a better life and future."

The family plans to sell the t-shirts they created to raise money for the Hunter's Heroes team that will participate in the Autism Speaks Walk September 21 in Fort Worth.

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