Kyle Florio gazed out on the field at Gillette Stadium and tried to focus on his team's scrimmage during halftime of the New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles Monday Night Football preseason matchup. Although Florio wasn't in pads for the contest, he donned his Franklin Chargers jersey and cheered on his teammates from the sidelines.
While every Pop Warner player dreams of playing a game under the lights in an NFL stadium such as Gillette, Kyle is focused on simply playing. Born deaf like his father, mother and two brothers, Kyle has a big hurdle to take on before he can return to the football field. Kyle requires an American Sign Language interpreter to relay plays and instruction from his coaches during practices and games. Last fall the Chargers were able to pay for an interpreter's services, but unfortunately the organization is unable to match their generous contribution in 2012. Now the Florio family, with the help of the Chargers, must raise enough money to hire an interpreter to help Kyle during the upcoming football season. This collective goal brought the group to Gillette Stadium on the night of August 20.
Just prior to the Chargers' halftime scrimmage, Kyle and his family walked out on the turf with former Patriots Center and New England Patriots Alumni Club (NEPAC) President Peter Brock and Patriot Place General Manager Brian Earley, who presented the Florios and the Franklin Chargers with a check for $2,000 toward their goal of $7,000.
Upon receiving a phone call from John Mackenzie, the treasurer of the Franklin Chargers, Earley immediately contacted Brock. Moved by Kyle's story and intrigued by his passion for the game of football, Brock and Earley went to work on putting a donation together.
"I think it's terrific," said Brock. "Our Patriots Alumni mission is to make sure that kids have the opportunity to play sports, to learn teamwork and the importance of that and leadership and achievement through hard work—all of those types of things that football brings. This was right in our wheelhouse and it's something that we really wanted to be a part of."
Opportunities for deaf children to play organized sports are limited; however Kyle's father, Steven, played football at a young age while attending a school for the deaf and is thrilled that his son has been able to share the same experience with the Chargers.
"It means a lot to me," signed Steven Florio. "For the Franklin Chargers to recognize the need for equal access … I really, really appreciate that. They gave so much effort and so much support for Kyle and they aren't required to do that. But they saw my son's needs and they really appreciated that."
To put it simply, Stevan emphatically signed, "[Kyle] loves football. He lives in a world of football."
While the NEPAC's donation provided a boost to Kyle's cause, the Florio family still has more work ahead of them to get Kyle back on the field. For those interested in making a donation, checks can be made out to the Franklin Chargers and sent to P.O. Box 66, Franklin, MA. 02038.