ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — It was a big day at Lathrop Elementary School Wednesday afternoon. Hammy the Hog was even there.
They were all there to cheer on Kaden Funk. He’s ten years old and in the fourth grade at Lathrop. His father Jamey Funk and mother Shannon Funk were also in attendance.
“We are super excited because this is like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Jamey.
Kaden has autism and plays for the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey Team.
“Having outlets for the special needs children to actually get together and play sports and having their peers seeing them doing this…it makes them fit in and it pulls at your heart a little bit.”
He leaves Thursday for St. Louis, Miss. to compete in the USA Hockey Disabled Festival. The festival is held at the Centene Community Ice Center, and it runs from March 30-April 2.
“He gets to be around everybody that’s just like him that’s competing and winning medals and getting the recognition and having people cheer for you in the crowd.”
On Wednesday, Kaden’s teacher and principal set up a parade for the rest of the Lathrop students to send him off.
“A lot of special needs children really don’t get to do this kind of thing so they wanted to make sure that all the students understand that Kaden’s one of them,” said Jamey. “He’s on a sports team and he’s doing something really great that we should be proud of.”
He walked the halls with Hammy, receiving cheers and screams from fellow classmates.
“All these children are different, but yet the one thing that brings the kids without a disability and the kids with disabilities together is sports.”
It was an emotional day for the Funk family. They are just so proud and excited for what Kaden has been able to accomplish thus far.
“You really just don’t get a chance, once again to see that with your kid,” said Jamey. “You just want them to try to fit in the best he can, and for them to celebrate him like this, it was just huge.”