Thank You Challenger Elementary School

Today, I had the honor of being interviewed during the Autism Awareness Proclamation at Challenger Elementary to kick off Autism Awareness month as April approaches.

Ms. Savanna Trinkle, Matthew’s teacher this year, did a fantastic job of organizing everything. The list of everyone who contributed to this program is quite long, and I don’t want to miss anyone, so I’m not going to try to list everyone. Please know that I know who you are, and I’m quite grateful. I do, however, want to share one of my answers to one of Ms. Trinkle’s questions during the interview.

Ms. Trinkle asked me what Matthew and I wanted to say to everyone at Challenger Elementary about Autism.

And the main thing I wanted to say to all of the kids past and present, all of the administration past and present, all of the staff, all of the aides and all of the teachers past and present is one simple message: thank you.

Thank you, Challenger

You see, Matthew has been going to Challenger for seven years now. In those seven years, he has, remarkably, only missed about seven days of school. That will be about 1,260 days at the end of the year

In those 1,260 days, there hasn’t been a single day, not even one, that I’ve had to worry about Matthew being accepted and included, and that’s absolutely amazing.

You see, when you have child who doesn’t talk a lot, when you have a child who laughs at usual times, when you have a child who wears headphones in school because the sound is too loud, when you have a child who bounces when he’s happy and when he’s nervous, when you have a child who has knock-down, drag-out, meltdowns for no apparent reason whatsoever, you kinda worry about his ability to fit in with the social environment of an elementary school.

Sometimes, Matthew just doesn’t fit in.

And yet, thanks to the amazing leadership of the administration, the faculty, the staff, the aides, and especially the amazing kids at Challenger, there has not been one single day that I’ve had to worry about Matthew being loved and accepted by everyone at Challenger.

And that, my friends, is flat-out the greatest gift that any parent can ever receive.

Too often our teachers, our principals, our aides, and yeah sometimes even our kids are blamed for making the world a bad place. It’s important for us to acknowledge and celebrate the times when we, all together, have absolutely gotten it right.

And for 1,260 days, Challenger Elementary has absolutely gotten it right for my son.

And so, to everyone involved in making school a great experience for my son, I say, and Matthew says, THANKS! (And love to you all.)

This, my friends, is what awareness is all about. This is what acceptance is all about.

This is what life is all about.

Thank you, Challenger! Thank you.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. Thank you for writing this Russell. Despite the tears in my eyes while I’m at work, I’m proud to know that I am your friend and that you’re mine. Thank you for thanking teachers, who are far too often blamed and attacked for things beyond their control. And thank you for posting such a thoughtful piece for us to read. Bravo, my brother.

    1. You big softie. 😂

      Thank you for helping to make Challenger such a great place. Many of those participating in making Challenger great were your students.

  2. So nice to read such a positive tribute written with sincerity and obvious thankfulness.

  3. Wonderful words of praise! How great of you to acknowledge those who love your precious child. Thank you!

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