Danny Keefe is one of “those” kids, the bullied kids, because Danny Keefe is “different.” He has a difficult time with speech due to childhood apraxia of speech [CAS] after he suffered a brain hemorrhage at birth. Plus, Danny Keefe, just six years old and in kindergarten, wears a suit and tie — and sometimes a fedora — to school every day.
Seriously, that kid, the one who talks funny, and dresses dumb, is a target.
Not so much anymore.
Danny, given the title “Official Water Coach” for the Bridgewater Badgers football team — a fifth grade football team — was surprised to find that his team supported him, his speech, his clothes, his everything, after they saw him getting picked on because of the way he speaks.
“He’s such a good person. He doesn’t let it bother him. He goes on with his day. He’s a 6-year-old kid. We should all respect that. We thought we would all come to school like Danny and sponsor Danny to show Danny that we love him — that we love him very much." — Tommy Cooney
Tommy Cooney is the quarterback for the team, his father, Tom, is the head coach, and that young man decided he would wear a suit to school, just like Danny, in a show of support. And last week, on what was called “Danny Appreciation Day,” more than forty students donned suits and ties and celebrated Danny Keefe.
“This is the best day ever. It makes me happy because I know that I have friends that will look out for me if I get picked on.”—Danny Keefe, though the day, and days to come, would only get better.
Danny went on television; he appeared on both “Good Morning America” and “Fox and Friends” and newspapers from as far away as England are telling the story of “Danny Appreciation Day.”
“It’s amazing, it’s wonderful,” Danny’s mother, Jennifer Keefe said. And she loved that Danny’s newfound fame was also being used to shine a light on other children with CAS.
Brian Lynch, the principal of the Mitchell Elementary School, is equally stunned by his students show stood up for Danny: “I love the fact that these fifth-grade boys are standing up for a little kid. I think it’s awesome.”
It is awesome, though I do have one small point, one small bit of nitpicking. Both Brian Lynch and Mark Keefe, Danny’s father, say that some news sources are changing the story to say Danny was bullied, and he wasn’t.
“You really can’t call it a bullying experience because these kids are 6 years old. They’re young kids. I would say teasing at worst.”—Mark Keefe
I would say that, maybe … maybe … because it’s a bunch of six-year-olds it might be considered teasing, but if it isn’t stopped now, this not so playful, name-calling, it will lead to bullying down the road. Teach those kids now that name-calling is not right, and maybe by the time Danny reaches middle school and high school they won’t be any teasing and there will be nothing worse.
One bit of good news, however, is that since the story broke, the Keefe’s have been inundated with phone calls and emails from people wanting to help Danny, and donate money to CAS. So the family started a foundation, “Danimal’s Army,” named after a nickname Danny’s friends gave him, and set an account at Bridgewater Savings Bank. The money will be used to help Danny with speech classes, thought he long-term goal is to use the donations to help other families with children suffering from apraxia.
All of this because a group of fifth-graders saw a young boy being teased over his clothing and decided to take a stand. That old song says, Teach your children well, but maybe we could learn a thing or three from the kids.
If you choose, you can mail donations to Bridgewater Savings Bank, c/o Danimal’s Army, 14 Main St., Bridgewater, MA 02324.