The Lion KingJan 30, 2017
Moore High School junior Aaron McCadden relishes his place as manager of the Lions football and basketball teams because it gives him a chance play a vital role in the teams’ successes. It also helps others see that his autism and cerebral palsy don’t limit his ability to contribute to the world.
“I was hoping to play football at first, but I couldn’t,” said Aaron. “So during the summer of my freshman year I went to a booster meeting to talk about the importance of football to the school, and I ended up being a manager.”
Lions head coach Paul Hix said that when Aaron’s mother talked to him about her son becoming a manager and he jumped at the idea.
“It’s been great having Aaron working with us,” said Hix. “He has such a great and funny personality that brings a lot of fun to the team.”
Hix said he got a quick introduction to Aaron’s sense of humor during his very first conversation with about the football manager’s duties.
“He asked, ‘What time do I need to be there, Coach?’ ” and I told him we started workouts at around 6:30 a.m. and he’d probably need to be here around 6:15,” said Hix. “He said, ‘Well, normally I sleep until about nine, so I don’t know if that’s gonna work.’ ”
But it did work, and it helped Aaron make the transition from a tentative and shy freshman to a robust junior who is involved in numerous activities around the campus.
“I consider that being part of all these things one of the best parts of being at Moore High School,” said Aaron. “You get to help the teams and also go to a lot of different places for games and tournaments.”
Aaron says that the level of acceptance and encouragement at Moore High School has gone far beyond his involvement with the athletic program.
“The first day I came to MHS I met a lot of really nice people that became good friends,” said Aaron. “That gave me a feeling of confidence, that I could be successful in high school.”
Aaron’s mother, Cheryl McCadden, said that watching her son blossom at Moore High School has been thrilling.
“For any parent of a child, with or without disabilities, it’s tough watching them make that transition from junior high to high school,” said Cheryl. “For a child with special needs, you worry about them being picked on, being accepted and all of those things.”
Not only has Aaron been accepted, but he has also excelled in numerous areas, including being named to the school’s National Honor Society and being crowned as Moore High School’s “Lion King” earlier this fall. McCadden was invited to participate in the pageant by senior Madilynn Grimes, a member of the high school pom squad. The Lion King pageant features male students dancing to highlight their talent. Aaron was the first special needs student to be invited to participate, and the student body responded by enthusiastically embracing him.
Cheryl said, “For him to be able to be part of the football and basketball teams, to be a part of the Lion King, all of these things have brought him full circle to being out of his shell, feeling like he’s a regular part of the school.”
Cheryl said the way the Moore High School community has embraced Aaron, and other special needs students has encouraged her to push to create more opportunities for those students. She hopes to help start a program similar to Southmoore’s “SuperCats” cheerleading squad.
“I’m really hoping that this has opened the door, not just for Aaron, but also for other kids coming into this school,” said Cheryl. “They all deserve a chance to be put in the limelight.”
In the meantime, Aaron is working hard at his classes and spending time volunteering for community activities. He has recently spent time volunteering at the Moore Food Resource Center and wrapping gifts at Ally’s House. Cheryl says it’s important for her son to realize that even though he battles autism and cerebral palsy, there are others who have more or even worse things to face.
“The model in our house is: you have a disability, the disability does not have you,” said Cheryl, “So do not let the disability define who you are. You are Aaron. You are not cerebral palsy and autism.”
For Aaron, who loves spending time with his family talking about school and all the other facets of his busy life, he understands that he has a chance to pay forward the great things he’s experienced this year.
“Being a Moore Lion means you get to help people to believe in themselves and build confidence in the future,” said Aaron.