A Reluctant Hero: High School Football Player Rudy Favard Is Big Brother to Disabled Boy

Rudy Favard takes time to help carry Sam Parker around his house.

January 6, 2011, 3:12 PM

Jan. 6, 2010— -- His schedule is jam-packed with classes and homework and football practice. But for one Massachusetts high school senior, there is a special place each night for an 8-year-old little boy named Sam.

Rudy Favard, a student at Malden Catholic High School, accepted his school nurse's request to meet with an area family three to four nights a week to carry their severely disabled son up the stairs to his bedroom; a task the family could no longer handle.

"I wanted to help," Rudy, 17, said. "I didn't think it was a big deal."

What he found was a family that welcomed him as one of their own.

"Sam's funny, to be honest with you. Cause at first when I would carry him, he was kind of stiff," Rudy said. "But, now, every time I get in there he's yelling. And when I carry him up now, he's always moving. It makes it harder, but that's his way of playing with me."

Sam Parker was born with cerebral palsy and does not speak. His parents, Rick and Patty Parker, are hoping to move eventually to a bigger house, one without stairs that would make it easier to move Sam around the house.

His mother described life with Sam as "joyful."

"But it's also difficult," Parker said. "He's the sweetest, most loving child you'd ever want to meet but he is a quadriplegic and he's heavy. He's 75 pounds. He has seizures everyday he's G-tube fed, he's blind, so basically everything that needs to be done for him needs to be done by us."

Sam's father, Rick Parker, used to carry his son, who has a healthy twin brother, up the stairs himself. But heart surgery for a life-threatening condition has left him unable to lift him.

"I used to look forward to holding my son, to be able to take him upstairs and care for him," Parker said, "and it's an honor to have him, to be able to have both my kids, to be able to have a child and take care of them."

When the family first met Rudy, who stops by three to five nights a week, they found him to be a "very shy, retiring type of kid."

"Sam was laying on the sofa at the time and [Rudy] went over and knelt down started playing with him, played with his hand, stroked his arm, started talking to him," Patty Parker said.

"It was just a relief and to see that someone was there and our worry was going to be taken care of ... he has, it's just been such a blessing to us."

But Rudy said the attention he has received, both from his community and a recent article in the Boston Globe, isn't deserved. He would rather the attention be on the Parkers.

"I hope this attention can ... hopefully help the Parkers get the house that they need," he said.

"Sometimes you just have those days where you don't want to wake up in the morning. Or sometimes you have those days where everything goes wrong," he said. "But seeing Sam's situation, seeing the Parkers' situation, it helps you realize that while you're still here if you're able to do what you're doing, you should keep doing it because you don't know when God could stop that."

High School Senior: 'Just Lend a Hand. It's Not Hard'

The call for a volunteer for the Parkers came into Malden Catholic at the suggestion of the Parkers' pediatrician, who knew the school had a reputation for promoting service to the community.

Rudy said that as a freshmen, he saw the older kids contributing to the world around them and now he hopes to be that example for the younger students.

"Just lend a hand," he said. "It's not that hard."

Rudy, who one day hopes to work as a marketing rep for an advertising firm, said he fits his trips to the Parkers in between homework and practice and workouts at the gym in the off-season. And he looks forward to them.

Although many kids his age would rather be out dating or with their friends, Rudy said, he has time for it all.

"It really doesn't affect my outside life," he added. "I just whenever I go out I let my friends know, 'Hey, I've got to do this real quick.' They don't mind. They don't care.

"And then I still have fun. Still see all the girls. There's no problem with it."

Even though Sam is blind and does not speak, Rudy and the Parkers say they know Sam knows who Rudy is.

"I think that Sam recognizes Rudy's voice," Patty Parker said. "He usually has a big smile when he hears Rudy come in the door ,sometimes he'll laugh a little bit. He does recognize voices so I believe he knows who Rudy is."

Parker called Rudy "an answer to prayer, a great gift." She said the high school student has "saved our family."

But Rudy sees it a little differently.

"Our paths probably crossed for a reason because that's what God meant it to be," he said. "I mean they're real nice people to talk to and they're part of the family now."